WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, today led a hearing to examine the effects of extreme heat and weather on transportation users, assets, and workers as well as ways to make transportation infrastructure more resilient to climate change.
ON THE WORSENING THREAT OF EXTREME HEAT ON THE TRANSPORTATION SECTOR:
“The frequency, intensity, and duration of more intense heat waves, wildfires, and extreme weather across the United States have only gotten worse in recent years due in large part to human-caused climate change. In turn, this has put our nation’s transportation infrastructure, workforce, and our travelers at greater risk of harm … when temperatures reach triple digits, roadways can buckle, resulting in costly damage that disrupts travel and leads to unsafe road conditions. In fact, it is estimated that the additional road maintenance and replacement costs caused by extreme heat could reach a total cost of $26 billion nationwide by 2040.”
ON SOLUTIONS BEING EXPLORED BY STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS:
“Fortunately, solutions are available to help transportation agencies better address the effects of extreme heat. Cities like Phoenix, Arizona and Los Angeles, California are turning to innovative materials, including cooler pavement, which gives off less heat than traditional pavement. Communities are also deploying strategies to reduce the urban heat island effect by planting more tree cover to help cool sidewalks and transit stops and reduce the overall heat intensity in dense, highly paved places.”
HOW THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CAN BETTER ASSIST STATE AND LOCAL EFFORTS TO ADDRESS EXTREME HEAT:
“Dr. Hondula, how can the federal government better assist states in efforts to stand up these [heat response and mitigation] offices?”
David Hondula, PhD, Director of the Office of Heat Response and Mitigation, City of Phoenix:
“Education is a really important role that the federal government can play in supporting resilience efforts at the local scale for heat or other hazards. We have been really proud to work with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) as part of their efforts to coordinate cross-federal agency engagement on heat through the National Integrated Heat Health Information System. Phoenix has been proud to be one of four cities participating in a heat and equity pilot program, where we are in dialogue on a regular basis with Las Vegas, Charleston, and Miami learning about our experiences … I think agencies like NOAA, like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and others can be very helpful in building heat literacy at the local level.”
HOW THE BIPARTISAN INFRASTRUCTURE LAW AND THE INFLATION REDUCTION ACT ARE HELPING BUILD MORE CLIMATE-RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE:
“Dr. Flannery, would you take a moment, as well, to discuss how these [Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act] programs and others will help states, transportation agencies, and local governments take more proactive action to make their transportation infrastructure more resilient to hazards like extreme heat and flooding?”
Aimee Flannery, PhD, PE, Global Principal, Transportation Risk and Resilience, Jacobs, Solutions & Technologies:
“For the past several years, state departments of transportation have been implementing asset management programs and performance management programs. They’ve begun to look at climate resilience along the lines of: how long can those assets last; are they deteriorating more quickly; do we need to repair them after extreme events; and, things like that. The PROTECT (Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation) program — the thing that it does is provide a dedicated stream of funding. So, states are now a little more comfortable thinking about how might I address resilience from … planning all the way through design. They see that there is an opening in terms of continual funding. There is an opportunity to make the investments they’ve known about but maybe didn’t necessarily have the funding to dedicate at the time. So, they are very excited about it.”
ON STRATEGIES TO PROTECT WORKERS FROM THE HEALTH RISKS OF EXTREME HEAT EXPOSURE
“Construction workers are on the front lines of adapting our transportation system to extreme heat events, and yet in doing so, they are also bearing the burden of extreme heat on their health and well-being. What types of health impacts from extreme heat are you seeing on our transportation construction workforce and what are some effective strategies for addressing these negative impacts?”
Travis Parsons, Director of Occupational Safety and Health, Laborers International Union of North America:
“We have all heard of heat exhaustion and we have all experienced dehydration, but if a worker gets to heat stroke it is usually too late. Oftentimes the symptoms aren’t there. So, we need to put in place requirements to have something as simple as water, rest, and shade. What I mean by that is so much water per hour … mandatory breaks of at least 15 minutes every two hours. And, that break area should be shaded and should have some kind of cooling mechanism, whether you are inside or outside.”
Click here to watch Chairman Carper’s first round of questions.
Click here to watch Chairman Carper’s second round of questions.
Click here to watch Chairman Carper’s opening statement.