Extreme Weather Vulnerability Assessment Pilot Project

James K. Polk Building, Suite 900
505 Deaderick Street
Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0344
Phone: 615.253.6301
Fax: 615.532.8451


Tennessee contains a vast transportation system that includes highways, railroads, waterways, airports, pipelines, transit services, and intermodal connections, in addition to the facilities utilized to manage and maintain transportation operations. Extreme weather can damage transportation infrastructure and disrupt travel mobility, which can seriously threaten the viability of individual communities and entire regions.

Between August 2013 and January 2015, as part of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Climate Change Resilience Pilot Program, TDOT began assessing the vulnerability of TDOT-managed transportation infrastructure to extreme weather.

Purpose and Need

The interconnectivity of the U.S. transportation system is heavily dependent on Tennessee’s transportation infrastructure for major east-west and north-south connectors – both on land and water. Interstate highways, including I-40, I-81, I-75, I-24, and I-65, serve as national freight corridors. Tennessee also contains and borders three major river systems with the Cumberland, Mississippi, and Tennessee Rivers.

In recent years, Tennessee has experienced several natural disasters that have significantly impacted passenger and freight transportation and mobility within the state, including the May 2010 flood in the middle Tennessee area, multiple flooding events in downtown Chattanooga, and sinkholes and rockslides along state routes and interstates statewide.

The damage caused by extreme weather and the disruption to travel have demonstrated the need to better understand the state’s vulnerability. Assessing the state's vulnerability would help identify critical transportation assets, develop short- and long-term adaptation strategies, and promote stakeholder coordination. Additionally, a comprehensive study would enhance the FHWA's Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Framework by adding quantitative analysis to the vulnerability assessment process.


For the study, TDOT formed the Tennessee Extreme Weather and Transportation Adaptation Partnership (TEWTAP) made up of federal, state, and local agency representatives. A series of regional focus group meetings were also held to collect additional data and stakeholder feedback.

The study utilized Geographic Information System (GIS) data, including traffic and asset management information, as well as historic extreme weather data and forecasts of future conditions. Additionally, the study employed quantitative loss and damage estimations using software developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to estimate potential economic losses from natural disasters.

The final report, Assessing the Vulnerability of Tennessee Transportation Assets to Extreme Weather, was completed February 13, 2015.

For more information contact TDOT Long Range Planning Division Assistant Director by email at David.Lee@tn.gov.