Regulation Database – Federal Highway Administration
Regulatory Actions, Orders, and Memoranda
FHWA Order 5520: Transportation System Preparedness and Resilience to Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events
The purpose of this directive is to establish the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) policy on preparedness and resilience to climate change and extreme weather events. This directive further serves to implement relevant provisions of title 23 of the United States Code (U.S.C), to comply with Executive Order 13653, Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change (EO 13653), dated November 1, 2013, and further the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Policy Statement on Climate Change Adaptation.
The order states that: “It is FHWA’s policy to strive to identify the risks of climate change and extreme weather events to current and planned transportation systems. The FHWA will work to integrate consideration of these risks into its planning, operations, policies and programs in order to promote preparedness and resilience; safeguard Federal investments; and ensure the safety, reliability, and sustainability of the Nation’s transportation systems.” To implement this policy, “FHWA managers and staff shall ensure that FHWA programs, policies, and activities for which they are responsible integrate consideration of climate change and extreme weather event impacts and adaptation into its planning, operations, policies and programs, in order to promote climate change and extreme weather event preparedness and resilience. Proactive management involves developing engineering solutions, operations and maintenance strategies, asset management plans and transportation programs that address risk and promote resilience at both the project and systems levels.”
- Order 5520 (Dec. 15, 2014)
Memorandum: Eligibility of Activities To Adapt To Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events Under the Federal-Aid and Federal Lands Highway Program
This FHWA memo clarifies that division offices and Federal Lands Highway Offices may allow State DOTs, metropolitan planning organizations, local agencies, and Federal land management agencies to use Federal-aid and the Federal Lands highway funds to consider the potential impacts of climate change and extreme weather events and apply adaptation strategies, both at the project and systems levels. Examples of eligible activities include:
- Vulnerability and risk assessments of Federal aid-eligible highways related to climate change and extreme weather events;
- Consideration of climate change and extreme weather events in highway project development, environmental review and design work;
- Construction of projects or features to protect existing eligible assets from impacts and damage associated with climate change and extreme weather events; and
- Evaluation of potential impacts of climate change and extreme weather events on asset management cycles, life cycle costs, etc.
- Funding Eligibility Memo (Sept. 2012)
Memorandum: Implementation of CEQ Guidance on Climate Change and NEPA Reviews
This memorandum, published in August 2016, notifies agency planners of the final CEQ guidance on climate change and NEPA and addresses initial questions regarding its implementation. It encourages planners to use a Planning and Environmental Linkages (PEL) approach to the assessment of GHG emissions, and to include an estimate of the difference in cumulative GHG emissions over the life of a transportation plan or study with or without implementing the transportation plan or project. It also notes that FHWA Division offices should work with their State DOTs and MPOs to use the results of planning-level climate change vulnerability assessments and adaptation plans.
- Memorandum on CEQ NEPA Guidance (Aug. 2016)
GHG Reporting Standards for State and Regional Highway Planners
In January 2017, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published a rule establishing regulations to assess the performance of the national highway system and related programs, including FHWA’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program. Among other things, the rule requires state and regional highway planners to measure and report greenhouse gas emissions for federally funded highway projects.
- Final Rule (Jan. 18, 2017)
Deregulatory Action: On February 13, 2017, FHWA postponed the effective date of the rule establishing GHG reporting standards for federal highway projects until March 21, 2017, consistent with a White House memorandum calling for freeze of new and pending regulations. On March 21, 2017, FHWA further postponed the effective date until May 20, 2017. On May 19, 2017, FHWA indefinitely delayed the effective date of the GHG reporting standards pending its reconsideration of those standards.
Litigation: On July 31, 2017, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Public Interest Research Group, and Clean Air Carolina sued the FHWA for delaying the effective date of the GHG reporting standards, alleging that the agency failed to abide by the required administrative procedures.
On June 13, 2018, the suit was voluntarily dismissed. The parties agreed that, as the Trump Administration has repealed the standards in question, the case is now moot.
Other Resources for Agency Personnel and Transportation Planners
Adaptation Planning Tools
FHWA has developed a set of resources to help highway engineers use projections of climate conditions to improve the resilience of the nation’s roads and highways. These include:
- HEC-17: Hydraulic Engineering Circular 17: Highways in the River Environment – Floodplains, Extreme Events, Risk, and Resilience (June 2016)
- HEC-25: Hydraulic Engineering Circular 25, Vol. 2: Highways in the Coastal Environment: Assessing Extreme Events (Oct. 2014)
Framework and Pilots:
- 2013-2015 Climate Resilience Pilot Program: Outcomes, Lessons Learned, and Recommendations (July 2016)
- Climate Change and Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Framework (Dec. 2012)
- Green Infrastructure Techniques for Coastal Highways (ongoing)
- Transportation Engineering Approaches to Climate Resiliency – TEACR (ongoing)
- Hurricane Sandy Follow-up (ongoing)
- Gulf Coast Study (completed)