Our team promotes climate resiliency in collaboration with Minnesota Department of Transportation and other agencies in a workshop that explores methodologies for resilience planning on a broader scope.

From Climate Change to Climate Resilience

With overwhelming scientific evidence, consistent news coverage, and the continued experience of extreme weather events, we’re all familiar with the topic of climate change. Climate change has impacted every industry in some form, including the transportation industry. It has become increasingly apparent that climate change will impact every aspect of the transportation industry from planning to design to construction and maintenance. Read on to find out how climate resiliency is an important part of what we do.

Current State of Affairs

With leadership from the Division of Sustainability and Public Health, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is at the forefront among DOTs in planning for climate change and its impacts on the transportation system. The agency recognizes that its “existing and future assets will become increasingly stressed by extreme weather patterns due to climate change” and they are “working to better understand [Minnesota’s] statewide vulnerabilities to climate change and the most effective response to related threats and stresses.” This studying of, preparing for, recovering from, and adapting to impacts from climate change is known as climate resilience. MnDOT asserts that “studying the performance of infrastructure under predicted extreme events will help MnDOT assess the impacts of climate change to plan, design, build, and maintain assets for resilience.” Further information on MnDOT’s activities is available here.

MnDOT’s process of integrating climate resilience into their work includes a peer exchange with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), partner DOTs, and agency stakeholders from around Minnesota held in 2020. This effort identified the need for infrastructure resilience planning at a corridor level. Responding to this need are Alliant’s Director of Transportation Planning, Tim Burkhardt, AICP, MPH, and Graduate Traffic Engineer and Planner, Hannah Johnson, EIT, who partnered with MnDOT to create and facilitate a workshop on resilient corridor planning.

The corridor selected for study during the workshop was a segment of US Highway 52 (Hwy 52) in southeastern Minnesota. The corridor is part of MnDOT District 6 in Goodhue and Olmsted Counties. This segment of Hwy 52 was selected due to recurring climate-related issues such as flooding, availability of data from previous MnDOT studies, and because upcoming pavement projects in the corridor could allow for implementation of next steps in the corridor resilience planning.

Diverse Partners

Recognizing that resilience planning requires an inter-departmental and multi-agency coordinated effort, workshop attendees included planners, engineers, and managers from various MnDOT divisions including Sustainability and Public Health, Office of Environmental Stewardship, Office of Transportation System Management, Asset Management Office, Bridge, Hydraulics, Water Resources, and District 6, as well as attendees from Olmstead County, the Rochester Council of Governments (ROCOG) and the Federal Highway Administration. This broad partnership underscores the fact that managing climate risk requires following natural boundaries versus right-of-way or jurisdictional lines.

The workshop was held as an online meeting consisting of presentations and in-depth breakout discussions. Alliant used a virtual whiteboard tool helped to effectively engage participants. Initially, the discussion focused on identifying the top climate and infrastructure risks, maintenance issues and social costs. The second part of the event addressed strategies for managing identified risks through both technical and process strategies.

While results were specific to TH 52 in southeastern Minnesota, much of the discussion and results are more broadly applicable. This workshop gave participants a clearer picture of a potential process, partners, and information needed for climate resilience planning at the corridor level. It also highlighted the actions needed to bring resilience into future MnDOT projects and studies. The collaborative discussions gave more detail for how the exercise could be productively expanded into a pilot project. In addition to designing and facilitating the workshop, Alliant prepared a report documenting the process and findings, and providing recommendations for MnDOT to progress their corridor resilience planning efforts.

To learn more about the work our team is doing to address climate resilience and other transportation planning needs, contact Tim Burkhardt, Director of Transportation Planning.