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Transportation and Climate Change

Planning for Climate Change

The Oregon Department of Transportation is working to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted through our operation and management of the state's transportation system. We are collaborating with others to develop innovative responses, minimizing energy use, increasing fuel efficiency and use of low carbon fuels, and supporting multi-modal transportation systems.

ODOT is also planning for the impacts of climate change on the transportation system (known as adaptation) and increasing transportation resilience through research, pilot studies and strategic projects.

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Transportation Sources

The Oregon Sustainable Transportation Initiative, or OSTI, is an integrated statewide effort to reduce greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions from transportation while creating healthier, more livable communities and greater economic opportunity.

ODOT provides leadership on OSTI through development and implementation of the Statewide Transportation Strategy, or STS. The STS is a state-level scenario planning effort that examines all aspects of the transportation system, including the movement of people and goods, and identifies a combination of strategies to reduce GHG emissions. The STS identifies a variety of effective GHG emissions reduction strategies in transportation systems, vehicle and fuel technologies, and urban land use patterns.

ODOT is also taking steps to reduce emissions from operating our internal fleet. This is important since we manage and maintain the statewide highway system and have one of the largest and most active vehicle fleets. ODOT has made great strides to increase the number of alternative fuel vehicles available, reduce diesel truck idling, and increase the use of alternative fuels, such as biodiesel. To find out more on our efforts in this area refer to the Sustainability Progress Reports.

Climate Change Adaptation

The impacts from climate change on our transportation system are projected to increase this century — and ODOT wants to be ready. Through adaptation planning and research we are taking the steps necessary to be prepared. Climate impacts on transportation can include: extreme storms events and flooding, rising sea levels and storm surge, coastal erosion and landslides, and higher temperatures and wildfire risks. ODOT is developing strategies to make the transportation system more resilient to these hazards.

ODOT’s Sustainability Program is leading the agency in research and planning for climate change adaptation. Our Adaptation Work Group is a cross agency team of managers and subject experts who help set agency priorities and provides technical guidance for adaptation planning work items.

ODOT prepared a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy Report in 2012. The Strategy provides a preliminary assessment of the climate change impacts to ODOT's operations and infrastructure, underlines the need for vulnerability and risk assessments, and identifies current areas of adaptive capacity and priority actions that can build resilience to projected climate impacts.

Climate Change Adaptation Strategy Report

In 2014, ODOT completed work on a regional Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Options Study. This pilot study was funded by the Federal Highway Administration, or FHWA, and focused on a two-county area on the North Coast. The study assessed 300-miles of state highways for vulnerability to extreme weather and higher sea levels. Lessons learned from the pilot have informed current adaptation priorities, including a sea level rise mapping project, and long-term research for monitoring of coastal landslides.

Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Options Study
FHWA Climate Change Resilience Pilots
FHWA Climate Change Adaptation

ODOT was awarded a Federal Highway Administration grant in 2016 to analyze the ability of green infrastructure techniques to protect coastal highways from wave scour, storm surge, and sea level rise. This applied research project will develop a set of coastal protection options and concept plans in collaboration with state regulators and coastal experts. The project team will focus on the use of nature-based solutions (such as engineered cobble beaches or sand dunes) at three vulnerable coastal sites along US 101 in Lincoln County. ODOT’s goal is to use the results to address active erosion in a critical area of need. This project is being led by Region 2 and will be complete in late 2017.

FHWA’s Green Infrastructure Pilots

ODOT is working to develop sea level rise mapping and guidance for use by planning and project design teams. The goal of the project is to ensure that the impact of projected sea level rise is considered in agency decision making. We will make use of new assessment tools and rely on sea level rise maps created by Oregon’s Coastal Management Program. Work will be guided by an agency Project Team with input from a management Steering Team. Work will be completed in 2018.

ODOT successfully obtained research funds to monitor coastal landslides and bluff retreat to inform coastal adaptation and risk assessments. This work will occur at five high risk landslide sites on the Oregon coast. The project will use Light Detecting and Ranging, or LiDAR, and other cutting edge technologies to monitoring landform changes over time. We will use the results to inform project risks and priorities for protecting highways threatened by landslides. ODOT Research is leading the project which is guided by a Steering Team. Research will be on-going through 2023.

As communities across Oregon prepare for new climate conditions, the question of how to adapt to those changes can seem overwhelming. Oregon’s Tillamook County has already made great strides to improve the resilience transportation and health systems by better preparing for the types of severe weather events that the community encounters today. ODOT and Oregon Health Authority staff interviewed leaders from Tillamook County transportation and health organizations about the December 2015 storms, which damaged roads throughout the county and caused a presidentially declared disaster. These community leaders shared successes and unanticipated challenges related to integrating disaster response, putting emergency plans to the test and building regional cohesion. The insights from this experience have been collected into a case study to help other communities in Oregon make preparations to increase long term resilience to major environmental events.

Case Study: How Tillamook Weathered the Storm

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