Transportation Officials Planning for, Sharing Experiences with Extreme Weather Events

AASHTO Journal, 25 October 2013

A group of panelists led by Oregon Department of Transportation Director Matt Garrett discussed the effects of dangerous weather events on transportation, while also sharing their experiences in preparing for future extreme weather events.

The discussion took place at the 2013 AASHTO Annual Meeting during the track session “Riding out the Storm—Extreme Weather Preparation and Recovery.” Garrett said that this topic was relevant to every state transportation department in the nation.

“Over the past several years, extreme weather events have disrupted transportation systems in nearly every region of the U.S.,” Garrett said. He further stated that extreme weather affects all modes of transportation by disrupting services, damaging infrastructure, and necessitating more frequent maintenance. “Transportation agencies are now managing more frequent and intense weather events and are at a hinge moment to prepare for the impacts of extreme weather events.”

During this session three panelists shared their experiences with responding to extreme weather events, and they discussed lessons learned, best practices, and risk management strategies.

Jennifer Toth, deputy director for transportation and state engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation, discussed dust storms in Arizona and the challenge to ensure motor safety. She also stressed a public outreach safety campaign “Pull Aside, Stay Alive” launched by ADOT to get drivers to be cautious, especially in times of danger.

Rich Tetreault, director of program development and chief engineer for the Vermont Agency of Transportation, discussed an approach his agency has taken to allow for more risk-based design in terms of roadway safety and stream stability. He also touched on the similarity between flooding events in Vermont following Hurricane Irene and the recent flooding events in Colorado. Tetreault flew to Colorado following the recent flooding to share lessons learned in recovery, joined by several of his VTrans colleagues.

George Conner, state maintenance engineer for Alabama Department of Transportation, ended the session by discussing extreme weather experienced in Alabama and how it has affected operations and maintenance practices. He reviewed adjustments made to operations and maintenance practices at ALDOT as a result of the increase and severity of extreme weather, as well as lessons learned from and best practices for responding to extreme weather such as hurricanes.

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