Agencies can minimize risk and reach greater levels of preparation by assessing their organizations and systems for vulnerability and resiliency readiness. State DOTs, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and the Transportation Research Board have sanctioned and executed numerous research studies that provide a wealth of information and tools for enhanced preparation, prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery from disasters, emergencies, and security events. These studies assist in baselining readiness and provide recommended actions to improve and integrate resiliency across all business units of an agency, including planning, construction, maintenance, operations, and funding, and externally involve a diverse set of agencies and organizations.
Many transportation agencies such as the Washington State DOT, Colorado DOT, Florida DOT, Michigan DOT, and Missouri DOT have mature risk and resiliency programs, developing multi-faceted plans to harden transportation assets, ensure continuity of operations, and prepare action plans for implementation in the event of disasters or threats. At the virtual 2021 Spring AASHTO meeting, a peer exchange was held during which state highway executives and managers and an official from the Federal Highway Administration shared insights and thoughts relative to infrastructure resilience. A review of the discussions held indicates that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent across the country.
Human-made disasters are also increasing and pose threats including cybersecurity issues, terrorist activity, and accidents that cause critical infrastructure damage. Many state DOTs have developed resiliency planning and implementation with a valuation of improvement to the system being a foundational component. In other words, the additional costs of resilient design need to have a positive benefit.
Additional feedback from the exchange cautioned that incorporating resiliency principles is a long-term enterprise effort requiring the involvement of many and varied stakeholders to review risk and resiliency through a lens of overall agency and specific, project-level risk. Agency-level risks may involve labor force, technology adaptation, deployment, and finances. In contrast, common project-level risks involve extreme weather and hardening of assets for repair and recovery.