Government agencies—from state departments of transportation to Indian Tribes—can now apply for some of the $848 million in discretionary grant funding that was recently made available through the new Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Program, which aims to make infrastructure more resilient to climate change.
The PROTECT program was one of several initiatives created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which ASCE strongly supported. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) opened the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023 on April 21st. State and local government agencies are eligible to apply for the grants, which support transportation projects that improve infrastructure resilience to extreme weather events such as wildfires, flooding, and extreme heat. The program extends to various sectors of infrastructure, such as highways, transit systems, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, intercity passenger rail, and ports.
ASCE supports initiatives such as the PROTECT program that increase the resilience of infrastructure against man-made and natural hazards through education, research, planning, construction, operation, and maintenance. In fact, ASCE identified the need for further advancements in resilience as a key solution to raise the grades in the 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. By advancing initiatives like the PROTECT program, which incorporate system resiliency into the decision-making process, we can prioritize projects that can help maintain a state of good repair for all infrastructure at the lowest life-cycle cost. Additionally, more resilient infrastructure can also minimize the cost associated with rebuilding after a major event.
Furthermore, ASCE believes one of the most reliable ways to ensure our nation’s infrastructure is resilient is the widespread adoption and enforcement of modern, up-to-date building codes and standards. ASCE engages in standards setting on a large scale. ASCE standards provide technical guidelines for promoting safety, reliability, productivity, and efficiency in civil engineering. Accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), ASCE has a rigorous and formal process overseen by the Codes and Standards Committee (CSC). Standards are created or updated by a balanced, volunteer standards committee, followed by a public review period.
ASCE’s work related to codes and standards can directly help with resilience, which is a priority area for the Department of Transportation (DOT). The use of the most up-to-date codes and standards can also help projects meet the PROTECT grant selection criteria, which include ensuring a project addresses risks from current or future weather events and reducing long-term infrastructure costs. ASCE has several documents that offer a sound basis for designing structures that can reasonably withstand the ever-increasing impacts of climate change and can guide the FHWA when designing new structures. These include:
- ASCE 7, Minimum Design Loads and Associated Criteria for Buildings and Other Structures (ASCE/SEI 7-16), currently an integral part of U.S. building codes, describes the means for determining soil, flood, tsunami, snow, rain, atmospheric ice, earthquake, and wind loads, and their combinations for resilient structural design;
- ASCE 24, Flood Resistant Design and Construction, prescribes a standard for cost effectively increasing resiliency by reducing and eliminating risks to property from flood hazards and their effects;
- ASCE 41, Seismic Evaluation and Retrofit of Existing Buildings, standardizes methods for the retrofit of existing buildings to increase resiliency in communities after a seismic event; and
- ASCE Manual of Practice 140, Climate-Resilient Infrastructure: Adaptive Design and Risk Management, provides guidance for and contributes to infrastructure analysis/design in a world in which risk profiles are changing due to climate change per the Fourth National Climate Assessment.
Additionally, ASCE publishes manuals of practice, peer-reviewed papers, and a myriad of technical resources that communities and owners can use to ensure their infrastructure is designed and built to withstand natural hazards such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes.
Making communities more resilient and combatting the impacts of climate change have emerged as leading priorities for the Biden Administration. In addition to the PROTECT program, the administration has launched the Carbon Reduction Program to help states cut emissions and the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program to build a national electric vehicle (EV) charging network.
FHWA is accepting applications for PROTECT program grants through August 18th. The agency is planning on holding webinars May 8th and May 11th to offer more information on the program and how to apply for a grant.