FTA Climate Change Adaptation Seminar - Los Angeles, CA

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8/3/2011

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

THERESE MCMILLAN, FTA DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR
FTA CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION SEMINAR
LOS ANGELES, CA

Thank you for joining us today to launch the first of three timely and important conversations about the impact of climate change on transit.

Please be aware that FTA will sponsor additional sessions, which will be announced on our website.

I want to thank APTA and the LA County MTA for collaborating with us and helping us pull off this morning’s seminar. I also want to thank our speakers, who have traveled near and far to be here with us.

I think you’ll find we have a good program in store for you today, with presentations from scientists and practitioners as well as an interactive exercise and time for discussion.

As you know, achieving a state-of-good-repair and maintaining high safety standards in the transit industry are top FTA goals. And these goals are threatened by climate change. Flooding and heat waves stress materials and degrade assets.

And in a vicious cycle, transit facilities that are not in a state of good repair become even more vulnerable to failure during extreme weather. High heat can cause track buckling with the potential for derailments, threatening safety.

Increased flooding and more intense storms also threaten safety, as do the impacts of heat waves on customer and worker health.

Such events are enormously disruptive. For instance, flood waters in Nashville last year inundated transit maintenance facilities and buses in five feet of water, causing major damage and forcing service suspension for four days.

We can and must confront these challenges head-on, today.

The fact is, climate change is not just an issue for future generations. It is happening here and now, as the very best science coming out of NOAA, NASA, the National Academy of Sciences, and other expert bodies can attest.

Both science and common sense tell us we need to reduce greenhouse gas levels to lessen future climate impacts, while at the same time adapting to the climate impacts already being felt, as a result of past emissions.

Since the transit industry has been working on the mitigation side of the problem for some time, this workshop focuses primarily on the relatively newer issue of adaptation.

Responsible risk management calls for adapting to reasonably foreseeable changes in climate conditions.

While this is a new area for the industry, transit agencies can build on the experience they already have dealing with a range of climate and weather challenges.

Those of you directly affected by the tremendously powerful tornadoes and floods that hit the Midwest, New England, the Mississippi Valley, and elsewhere over the past year can surely boast that you have plenty of experience already.

But there’s still plenty of opportunity to integrate adaptation strategies into asset management programs, the transportation planning process, and emergency preparedness plans.

FTA has recently issued policy communications clarifying our commitment to integrate climate change impacts and adaptation into our planning, operations, policies, and programs.

This is an important step forward for us—one that brings us closer to working with our partners to achieve meaning solutions.

Let me briefly highlight other actions FTA is taking to address climate change, in addition to this series of workshops.

First, I’m pleased to announce we’re releasing today a new report on public transportation and climate change adaptation. You’ll hear more about this later.

Second, we recently announced the availability of $525,000 for pilot projects that model different climate adaptation assessments at transit agencies. Applications are due August 25th. And again, more information is available if you don’t already have it.

Thank you again for participating in this workshop.

My staff and I look forward to working with you find new ways to meet our climate change challenges—and reduce adverse impacts on our systems, our workers, and our riders as much as possible.

Thank you.

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