Applying Vulnerability Assessments and Triple Bottom Line Considerations to Rail Infrastructure Management: Toward an Integrated Framework for Rail Resilience and Sustainability

Although resilience and sustainability analyses may provide advantageous information to decision makers in the rail industry, there is no formalized framework for incorporating such assessments in rail practices. Furthermore, there are few conceptual frameworks that present an integrated approach to resilience and sustainability for infrastructure asset management in the literature. The hypothesis of this research is that integrating resilience and sustainability analyses will produce more valuable outputs and outcomes than assessing either concept separately in transportation planning and decision making. This research will apply climate vulnerability assessments and the TBL approach to sustainability to rail infrastructure planning and resource allocation decision making. The results will be validated by rail operators and administrators to support improved investments in rail that are resilient to extreme events, protect the natural environment, enhance economic competitiveness, and improve societal quality of life, equitably. Based on feedback from rail practitioners, the research will develop implementation and conceptual frameworks for integrated consideration of resilience and sustainability in rail planning and resource allocation decision making.

The products from this research include practitioner-facing tool showing how rail entities can perform vulnerability assessments that integrate sustainability. This tool will be presented at Transportation Research Board’s Annual Conference in 2025 for practitioner feedback and validation. The interactions with practitioners at TRB will inform the hypothesis of this research, provide feedback to improve to tool, and inform the development of a conceptual framework for integrating resilience and sustainability. Other deliverables of this research include two chapters of a PhD dissertation: one focused on literature review and another on framework development. The literature review will be conducted from August to October 2023 as outreach efforts continue. The second chapter will highlight insights from both the implementation and conceptual framework development. This task will coincide with the framework development process. After the two chapters have been written, an article will be developed to be submitted to the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Conference.

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