Adaptation Strategies to Safeguard San Diego’s Transportation System
SB1 Adaptation Planning Grant: Initial Case Study
Challenge: Developing plans and strategies
San Diego’s transportation system is vulnerable to climate change impacts, including sea level rise, storm surge, and rainfall-driven flooding. The City of San Diego seeks to develop proactive transportation system adaptation strategies to prepare for these projected impacts, especially to ensure access to transportation for San Diego’s disadvantaged communities. The project will explore the use of nature-based solutions that offer multiple co-benefits such as restoring coastal habitats, managing stormwater and runoff, protecting adjacent assets, and enhancing recreational opportunities.
This project supports numerous state initiatives including: the California Transportation Plan 2040, Safeguarding California Plan, the California Coastal Commission Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance, and the California Adaptation Planning Guide.
The project will expand the scope and depth of the San Diego Planning Department’s three-year effort to develop a Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Plan. That Plan will identify feasible and cost-effective adaptation strategies that achieve benefits across multiple sectors and will expand upon the City of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, adopted in 2015, which calls for eliminating half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the City and aims for all electricity used in the city to be from renewable sources by 2035.
This project will specifically characterize vulnerable components of the transportation system, identify best-fit strategies that minimize damage and disruption to the transportation system while also offering co-benefits, develop an implementation plan for more comprehensive tracking of extreme weather and climate impacts in the City’s asset management system, and develop a methodology for systematically understanding vulnerability and evaluating transportation asset resiliency strategies. Finally, the project will disseminate best practices for transportation managers in the San Diego region and beyond.
Lead Agency and Partnerships
The City of San Diego, with the assistance of a consulting firm, will perform this work. The consultant and the City will also work with many partners through the formation of a Stakeholder Advisory Group. This group will include transportation experts including the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), San Diego Metropolitan Transit Service (MTS), California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), and bike/ped advocates, as well as various City departments such as the Department of Planning, Financial Management, Public Works, Risk Management, Transportation and Storm Water.
The City’s transportation infrastructure is vulnerable to climate change impacts projected for the region (e.g., sea level rise, storm surge, inland flooding). This vulnerability is expected to disproportionately impact the disadvantaged populations such as Barrio Logan and Downtown San Diego. These populations more heavily rely on public transit (the bus and rail services and associated facilities operated by San Diego Metropolitan Transit System), which in turn requires resilient roadways and other transportation support infrastructure. Further, the transportation system is critical in ensuring swift and effective recovery after an extreme event. Reduced mobility and accessibility can cause cascading impacts, such as greater human health concerns due to lack of access to medical care, and barriers to the flow of food, water, and other supplies).
To ensure that climate change impacts to the City’s disadvantaged communities and transportation system infrastructure are thoroughly analyzed, the consultant and the City will establish a Stakeholder Advisory Group made up of local transportation experts at a range of geographic scales (e.g., SANDAG, MTS, Caltrans, bike/ped advocates) as well as members of various City departments (e.g., Planning, Budgeting, Public Works, Risk Management, Transportation and Storm Water) and representatives from or serving selected disadvantaged communities anticipated to be vulnerable to climate change.
This group will be called upon to aid in the determination of vulnerability and the compilation of adaptation strategies. A kick-off meeting will be held to acquaint the Stakeholder Advisory Group members with the objectives and scope of the project as well as the expectations for their involvement. A schedule will be developed to ensure that as many members as possible are engaged at critical decision points throughout the project process and that they will be available when certain tasks call for their input and vetting.
Beyond the engagement of the Stakeholder Advisory Group, the City anticipates engaging community members through online engagement (e.g., via web content, survey questions, social media); in-person engagement (e.g., via workshops and consultations); and informational outreach (e.g., via presentations, press releases, and trainings).
Climate Impact Area
The project will focus on vulnerable components of the transportation system, particularly those that are vulnerable to sea level rise and flooding. The project will identify best-fit strategies that minimize damage and disruption to the transportation system while also offering co-benefits (e.g., nature-based solutions that offer multiple co-benefits such as restoring coastal habitats, managing stormwater and runoff, protecting adjacent assets, and enhancing recreational opportunities). The consultant will work closely with the City to develop an implementation plan for tracking the impacts (e.g., damage to infrastructure, disruption to travelers) of extreme weather and climate impacts in the future. This plan will likely include the addition of new data fields in the City’s asset management system.
The project is funded through award of Fiscal Year 2017/2018 Caltrans Adaptation Planning Grant funds. The award amount is $438,620 and will include an additional $59,000 local match.
Research and Data
The consultant will obtain and review historic data (e.g., maintenance records kept by City Departments or others) for evidence of repeated flooding costs and travel impacts and other hazards suffered by the transportation infrastructure. The consultant will seek the aid of the Stakeholder Advisory Group in finding information on historic hazard events as well as mitigation measures undertaken at the time of such events. The information will be analyzed to identify trends (e.g., areas of repeat damage, types and magnitude and damage by asset types, disruptions and any cascading impacts) and summarized.
The overall goal of this project is to contribute to the development of a Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Plan. This will be achieved through the following project objectives:
- Collect and review available information (both historically documented and projected) regarding climate change exposure and vulnerability for the City of San Diego’s transportation assets.
- Identify and evaluate adaptation strategies for the City’s transportation system to increase resilience to extreme events and other climate-related hazards.
- Develop and test a systematic and stakeholder-accepted evaluation methodology to assess which strategies are best suited to address the City’s unique vulnerabilities that is applicable to other sectors (and thus can be used by the City in developing a multi-sector Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Plan) and other local transportation networks in the region and across the State.
The final report will document the project objectives, process for assessing vulnerability and engaging the Stakeholder Advisory Group, the vulnerability assessment findings for the transportation system, potential adaptation strategies identified and evaluated, the evaluation criteria and methodology developed through the project, and the transferability of the criteria and methodology to the development of the City-wide Climate Adaptation and Resilience Plan.
The final report will be made available to transportation managers in the San Diego Region to share best practices. These strategies will be refined through the larger planning effort to develop a Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Plan.
The figure below illustrates the anticipated flow of project tasks (some of which will be conducted in parallel, such as Tasks 4 and 5).
For additional information regarding the City of San Diego’s Adaptation Strategies to Safeguard San Diego’s Transportation System – SB1 Adaptation Planning Grant, please contact: