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Fifth National Climate Assessment - Read the Report

Department of Transportation

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The Department of Transportation (DOT) coordinates with USGCRP and its participating agencies to inform transportation system mitigation and resilience solutions. DOT initiatives to improve the resilience and sustainability of the U.S. transportation sector include the following:

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working on many fronts to mitigate the impact of aviation on the climate. The FAA is following a whole of government approach described in the United States Aviation Climate Action Plan to put the aviation sector on a path towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. This plan outlines efforts being taken across the federal government to reduce emissions through new technologies, sustainable aviation fuels, and improved operational procedures. The FAA is also working through their university partners to understand the impacts of aviation activity on the climate and to evaluate and mitigate the of climate change on FAA infrastructure and the National Airspace System. The FAA also funds a range of airport infrastructure initiatives that will improve the efficiency, sustainability, and resilience of U.S. airports. 

  • The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are working with States, public transportation agencies, and metropolitan areas to improve the condition and increase the resilience of the Nation’s highways and public transportation systems, respectively, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving mobility. FHWA and FTA are supporting transportation agencies through ongoing programs that include assessing vulnerabilities; considering resilience and sustainability in the transportation planning and project funding processes; incorporating resilience in asset management plans; incorporating resilience and greenhouse gas emissions considerations in project development and design; optimizing operations and maintenance practices; planning for transit-oriented development; and deploying alternative fuel vehicles and associated infrastructure. FTA and FHWA are also working to ensure that resilience is considered when rebuilding damaged transportation infrastructure after a natural disaster. Additionally, both agencies have launched climate challenges that support efforts to curb transportation sector greenhouse gas emissions. FTA’s Sustainable Transit for a Healthy Planet Challenge encourages transit agencies to develop climate, sustainability, or electrification or zero-emission transition plans that include strategies with measurable goals to achieve GHG emission targets. FHWA’s Climate Challenge provides funding and technical assistance to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from materials and practices for the design, construction, and maintenance of pavements. Further, FHWA is implementing a number of new funding programs under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Public Law 117-58), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, targeted at mitigating the impacts of climate change and increasing the resilience of the surface transportation system. These programs include the Carbon Reduction Program, the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program, the Charging and Fueling Infrastructure Discretionary Grant Program, the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Program, and the Reduction of Truck Emissions at Port Facilities Grant Program.

  • The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) challenged the rail industry to meet net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, including working with the rail industry to find solutions to transition from diesel fuel for locomotives to zero emissions technologies. FRA’s activities include coordinated research into the safety of zero-emission locomotive technologies, developing pilot projects to test new technologies, and grant funding for the purchase of cleaner, more efficient and zero-emissions locomotives. Through the historic funding in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, FRA is expanding and improving passenger rail access, which provides a low-carbon emissions option for intercity transportation. FRA is conducting research into emissions from maintaining and constructing the rail network and the embedded carbon in rail products. In addition, FRA is evaluating and exploring opportunities to make the national rail network more resilient and assure infrastructure investments are built to withstand future climate change impacts.

  • The Maritime Administration (MARAD), through the Maritime Environmental and Technical Assistance (META) program, has been actively supporting research and development efforts focused on maritime decarbonization, emissions reductions, and energy efficiency for several years. Through this effort, the META program collaborates with government, industry, and academic partners to advance knowledge on “what works” for the various components of the maritime sector as it addresses the challenge of greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Results from META’s efforts support U.S. domestic and international policy mechanisms. Complementary to META’s efforts, MARAD’s Office of Ports and Waterways has incorporated climate change and sustainability considerations as an evaluation factor in its reviews of applications seeking grant funding for port infrastructure development projects and related activities.

  • The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Offices of Pipeline Safety (OPS) and Hazardous Materials (OHMS) are conducting research projects that address safety, environmental sustainability, and climate change. OPS is conducting research to promote safer systems for underground gas storage and liquefied natural gas facilities, as well as research related to the use and transport of hydrogen and hydrogen/natural gas blended fuels by pipeline. In addition, OPS is hoping to reduce methane emissions by sponsoring advanced research in methane detection and leak control. OHMS also focuses on hazardous materials packaging, particularly ways to reduce risks related to the transport of lithium batteries, and new packaging needed to address hazards associated with emerging energy technologies.

  • The Office of International Transportation and Trade engages bilaterally and multilaterally to foster a zero-emission global transformation that addresses climate mitigation, adaptation, and resilience through standards, policies, strategies, research, trade promotion, and technical cooperation and assistance.

  • The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology has established a Climate Change Research and Technology Program to advance greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, resilience, and climate adaption research initiatives. The program is investing in research to support understanding and implementation of multi-modal transportation decarbonization strategies. Further, the program is working in partnership with FHWA and three Metropolitan Planning Organizations—Hampton Roads, Hillsborough, and Houston Galveston—to implement the Resilience and Disaster Recovery (RDR) Tool Suite. The tool suite assists transportation agencies in infrastructure investment planning and prioritization across a range of uncertain future hazards. Further, the program is working in partnership with FHWA and DOT’s Office of Intelligence, Security, and Emergency Response to ensure that the costs and benefits of resilience are incorporated into the transportation infrastructure planning process. The goal is to develop nationally replicable modeling tools capable of estimating the regional-scale impacts of natural and man-made disasters on the transportation system. These tools will enhance pre-event planning and disaster recovery capabilities.

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