State/Local/MPO Actions & Policies


Although the federal government has not enacted climate change legislation, there is a great deal of climate change activity at the level of states - including state departments of transportation (DOTs), metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and multi-state regions. These actions include the following:

State Climate Action Plans

As of April 2010, 33 states have developed state climate action plans, with several other states in the process of developing plans. Some of these plans have been formally adopted by the respective governor or state legislature, while others were prepared as reports without any official action being taken. In 2009, a report to the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (Strategies for Reducing the Impacts of Surface Transportation on Global Climate Change: A Synthesis of Policy Research and State and Local Mitigation Strategies) reviewed the transportation elements of most of the state climate action plans. The report found the transportation elements of these plans were often developed with limited state DOT input, are highly "aspirational," vary considerably from state to state, and lack valid cost information and specifics as to their implementation. DOT staff in a significant number of states that developed climate action plans have expressed several concerns about the process used to develop these plans. In some cases, state DOTs and other major transportation interests were not invited (and in one state not allowed) to serve on the overall steering committees for climate action plans. Most budgets and timetables for the climate plans were constrained, which appears to have compromised the quality of analysis and time needed for the development of analytically sound climate action plans.

State DOT Climate Activities

As of April 2010, at least one state DOT (Vermont) has developed a state DOT climate action plan, and other state DOTs have developed plans for implementing the transportation elements of state climate plans (Maryland DOT's is one of the most detailed). Other state DOTs are taking a wide range of actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Examples include:

  • solar panels in highway rights-of-way;
  • use of low-carbon fuels in state DOT fleets;
  • efforts to reduce trips and vehicle miles traveled (VMT) growth statewide
  • coordination of land use with local governments;
  • increased support for transit, truck stop electrification to reduce idling;
  • eco-driving promotion;
  • traffic flow improvements; and
  • provisions for alternative fueling facilities for both the public and state fleets.

Approximately a dozen state DOTs have climate adaptation activities underway to identify vulnerable transportation facilities and priority needs for protecting or retrofitting those transportation facilities. Several state DOTs have begun incorporating both greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation and climate adaptation in state and federal environmental documents for transportation projects (e.g., Oregon, Washington, California, and North Carolina). State DOTs also are beginning to develop GHG modeling tools, prepare GHG baseline estimates, and coordinate with state environmental and energy offices and with MPOs on climate change planning.

See also the State-By-State Interactive Climate Change Map on this website for more state DOT climate change documents and links.

Local Government Climate Activities

Nearly 800 mayors have signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, agreeing to reduce community-wide GHG by 2012 to at least 7 percent below 1990 levels. However, one analysis found that many cities will not be able to meet this goal absent complementary state and federal policies to reduce GHG emissions. In mid-2007, a multi-state Climate Registry was launched to establish a common protocol for GHG reporting due to the lack of such a protocol at the federal level. The Registry has at least 39 member States plus the District of Columbia.

MPO Climate Planning

Many MPOs, especially the larger MPOs, are analyzing GHG emissions from transportation in their metro areas, developing transportation GHG inventories and baseline protections and identifying possible strategies to reduce transportation GHG. Examples of MPOs which have begun focusing on transportation GHG planning are the MPOs in Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Ithaca, N.Y.

Multi-State Regions

Three major multi-state/regional climate initiatives are underway in the United States: the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord (MRGHGRA), and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is based in the Northeast and has already implemented a cap-and-trade program for electric utilities.
An excellent up-to-date source of information is available on the website of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change U.S. States & Regions website. It includes maps of the U.S. where users can click on states to access specific information for each state, including the climate action plans of each state.

This section of the AASHTO Resilient and Sustainable Transportation Systems Technical Excellence Center website contains more detailed information and resources on the climate change activities by states, state DOTs, local governments, MPOs, and multi-state regions.