Assessing the Vulnerability of Tennessee Transportation Assets to Extreme Weather: Final Report

Study Overview  

While the transportation sector is a major contributor to climate change, it is also directly impacted by climate change itself, and adaptation strategies must be pursued to ensure the reliability and functionality of the region’s transportation network. In recognition of this need, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, in partnership with Vanderbilt University and the University of Tennessee, conducted a study assessing the vulnerability of Tennessee’s transportation assets to extreme weather. This is the first time this kind of assessment has been done for this region, and the report’s findings have been vital to the development of this climate adaptation plan and have helped inform the recommended solutions in this report.


Major Findings

The TDOT report identified critical transportation assets on a statewide level, defining these as “any portion of the transportation system without which there would be an immediate and substantial disruption to the transportation system at the local, regional or national level”. Historic extreme weather events and future extreme weather scenarios were used to conduct an impact assessment on these assets. A vulnerability score for each infrastructure asset associated with a certain type of extreme weather event was established, and scores were calculated for every county in the state.

The report identified critical weather risks to the MPO region’s transportation infrastructure as: extreme heat, high winds and thunderstorms, tornadoes, heavy precipitation and flooding, lightning, hail, drought, and winter storm events. 


This study represents a starting point for integrating extreme weather risk into the TDOT's management, planning and operations. It also serves as a foundation that TDOT can build upon by performing follow-on activities based on the results of the extreme weather vulnerability assessment. The following initiatives are recommended for implementation:

-Adaptation Project Planning
-Coordination with Risk-Based Asset Management Plan
-Communicating Site-Specific Results to Local Stakeholders
-Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Tool Development





  • Assessing the Vulnerability of Tennessee Transportation Assets to Extreme Weather: Final Report

Completion Date

  • 2015


  • 3 Sigma Consultants, LLC
    Vanderbilt University

Study Partners

  • TDOT
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