Transportation Resiliency

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In recent decades, the increase of catastrophic environmental events has triggered concern for resiliency in our communities, the built environment, and our transportation system. This is reflected in the increased focus on and funding for resilience planning both within and outside the United States. For transportation studies, this has implied a need to better understand how environmental change events impact transportation systems, the intersection of these impacts with other community systems, and actions taken to prepare for, respond to, recover from, adapt to, and mitigate such events. Download the full literature review of NITC research in transportation resiliency here, and stay tuned for two-page summary this Summer 2022.

What are the impacts of our research on increasing the resiliency in transportation infrastructure? Learn more about some impact stories below.

In a series of NITC Research Roadmaps, we surveyed a decade of contributions across six areas of transportation research funded by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC).

City of Tucson pilots “cool corridors” to mitigate impacts of hot pavement on bicyclists and pedestrians

Road pavement is a known contributor to the urban heat island effect. Several vendors are providing engineered pavements coatings – known as “cool pavement” - to reflect light and therefore heat to reduce the thermal load of roads. The City of Tucson implemented a pilot application of a 1.5 mile section of cool pavement in Fall 2021 as a part of its Parks and Connections Bond work. Our team of NITC researchers from University of Arizona have been working with the city and vendors to evaluate the treatment and impact on cooler ambient air temperatures. They're also examining whether innovations such as cooler pavement surfaces can make walking and biking more tolerable and extend the life of streets and roads. Few of these cool pavements have been evaluated outside lab conditions, particularly in the desert southwest.

“The idea is to make walking and biking more comfortable and safe for the entire community. But particularly, it’s an equity issue because for community members that may not have transportation options besides walking or biking or transit, they’re exposed to extreme heat during their daily travel. For vulnerable or marginalized community members, cool corridors can really be a public health, a public safety issue. There are a lot of broader benefits, too. The transportation sector is one of the primary drivers of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, so if we want to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are leading to warming temperatures, we’re going to have to help make non-vehicle transportation options more feasible and appealing.”
- Ladd Keith, University of Arizona (read the full July 2022 interview with Washington Post)

This project is part of a larger effort by UA researchers looking at measuring and evaluating personal heat exposure in the context of urban projects, policies, transportation for climate change adaptation and resilience Learn more about Assessing Cool Corridor Heat Resilience Strategies for Human-Scale Transportation led by Ladd Keith of University of Arizona

Creating a collaborative framework for assessing economic impacts of disasters on transportation

Transportation systems play a critical role in maintaining supply chains for effective post-disaster recovery. Modeling the potential economic impact of transportation-related disruptions is an important step to promoting pre-event community-wide recovery and resilience planning. But existing supply chain and economic impact models are cost prohibitive and overly sophisticated for public sector entities with limited resources. There is also limited understanding of how small and medium enterprises adjust to post-disaster transportation disruption and how this experience influences their future preparedness for similar events. Divya Chandrasekhar of University of Utah has developed a collaborative framework for supply chain and economic impact assessments, and guidance on how to transfer this framework to other communities.

Learn more about Estimating the Economic Impacts Of Transportation-Related Supply Chain Disruptions In The Post-Earthquake Environment led by Divya Divya Chandrasekhar of University of Utah

25 case studies in rethinking streets for physical distancing and public health

The Rethinking Streets guidebook series have been used by hundreds of practitioners across the country. The latest in the series, Rethinking Streets for Physical Distancing, looks at how we use our streetscapes for community connection, placemaking, or active transportation and public health while navigating the restrictions of COVID-19 pandemic. The book offers 25 case studies from a broad swath of U.S. cities with a handful of international examples of streets that were redesigned to better accommodate people during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Re-allocating space on streets to accommodate new uses – particularly for walking, biking, and being – is not new. However, COVID-era needs have accelerated the process that most communities use to make such street transitions. Over the course of 2020, many communities quickly understood that the street is actually a public place and a public good that serves broader public needs – needs that may be more urgent than the free flow or the storage of private vehicles. This guidebook from University of Oregon looks at some of these quick changes to city streets and demonstrates how the street – a public resource – can be used differently and change can be implemented quickly. The book is divided into five sections looking at bikeways, slow streets, streets for dining, public promenades, and flexing the curb space.

Learn more and download the Rethinking Streets for Physical Distancing led by Marc Schlossberg of University of Oregon.