Press Release

September 22, 2021
Cardin: New GAO Report Confirms that Investing in Climate Resiliency Now, Reduces Disaster Cleanup Costs Later

GAO: “If U.S. roads aren’t built to withstand changes in the climate, they may be unsafe routes for emergency evacuations and expensive to fix after a disaster. Climate-related damages to paved roads may cost up to $20 billion annually by the end of the century.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, announced Wednesday the results of a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) detailing how improving the climate resiliency of federally funded highway projects can reduce fiscal risk for federal and state governments. Improving the climate resiliency of roads and bridges means “federally funded roads … can withstand or more easily recover from changes in the climate,” according to GAO.

“Whether it is roads buckling from record heat waves or flooding from intense rainfall, climate change is costing Americans time and money, and putting safety and property at risk. With the federal government poised to make major, long-term investments in transportation infrastructure, planning for climate resiliency is a matter of urgency and fiscal responsibility, not speculation,” said Senator Cardin. “As Congress nears the finish line on infrastructure legislation that takes important steps forward on this issue, including a new grant program to support climate resiliency projects, the GAO has confirmed that the federal government can do more to incorporate resiliency in our decisions and mitigate climate change related risks through greater information sharing, integrated planning, and incentives.”

In September 2017, Senator Cardin requested the GAO study to determine “opportunities to build resiliency into infrastructure and funding systems.” Joining the request to GAO were Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.-4), Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Tex.-30), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology; Congressman Bill Foster D-Ill.-11), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight (Science, Space and Technology); and Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.-11), member, Subcommittee on the Environment (Science, Space and Technology).

As part of its report, GAO recommended 10 options that would “further enhance the climate resilience of federally funded roads.” They include:

  1. Integrate climate resilience into Federal Highway Administration policy and guidance.
  2. Update design standards and building codes to account for climate resilience.
  3. Provide authoritative, actionable, forward-looking climate information.
  4. Add climate resilience funding eligibility requirements, conditions, or criteria to formula grant programs.
  5. Expand the availability of discretionary funding for climate resilience improvements.
  6. Alter the Emergency Relief (ER) program by providing incentives for, or conditioning funding on, pre-disaster resilience actions.
  7. Expand the availability of ER funding for post-disaster climate resilience improvements.
  8. Establish additional climate resilience planning or project requirements.
  9. Link climate resilience actions or requirements to incentives or penalties.
  10. Condition eligibility, funding, or project approval on compliance with climate resilience policy and guidance.

The full report from GAO can be found at this link.