Global transportation infrastructure today is confronted with significant vulnerabilities — an aging infrastructure; a growing concentration of populations at high-density coastal urban areas; increasing interdependencies among the nation's physical and cyber infrastructures; co-location of many transportation systems with large-scale and potentially hazardous production facilities; and the escalating threats of climate change. Together, they have coalesced to create significant challenges for the nation's critical infrastructure systems.
A framework for enhancing critical transportation infrastructure resiliency could potentially serve as a roadmap for addressing some of these pressing global challenges. Recently, the concept of resiliency, however, has become a buzzword used to characterize a system that recovers rapidly from a disruption in order to resume normal functions. But resilience is not just bouncing back.
Resiliency is an overarching concept characterizing a complex transportation system that is able to better withstand disruptions. The transportation system includes physical, technical, social and institutional elements that are all critical to resilience. A resiliency framework should not be viewed as a mechanism for preserving the status-quo and returning the system to pre-disaster condition. What is envisioned is a framework that enables us to strategically harness capabilities and know-how to build or rebuild a transportation system that is much less vulnerable to disruption and better than the current transportation system. A resilient transportation system has design-level robustness so that it can withstand severe blows; it is adaptable so that it can respond appropriately to threats and it can mitigate the consequences of threats through response and recovery operations. These three attributes — robustness, adaptiveness, and consequence mitigation — form the foundations of a resilient transportation system.
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