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Recovery Management: Local Government


Local government jurisdictions include cities, towns, counties, special districts, parishes, and other sub-State political subdivisions such as a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). If your community is part of a MPO, it is especially important to involve this organization in all phases of transportation emergency management because it is the primary entity responsible for all transportation planning in the region.

Most response and recovery actions begin and are managed at the local level, so your involvement in the recovery process is critical. Since it is your community at stake, remember that you are in charge from start to finish. As a leading government official, it will be crucial to coordinate, organize, and integrate the capabilities and resources of your own community with that of other jurisdictions, the private sector, and possibly higher levels of government. Be aware that when a disaster is too devastating for your community to handle alone, your State has a variety of resources that may be used to help you with local transportation recovery efforts. The State can also provide strategic guidance on recovery issues if requested. To access these resources, your local emergency manager would need to make requests for assistance through the SCO regarding transportation recovery issues. The State can also involve the Federal government as necessary.

Establish Priorities

Establish priorities for your recovery process. A recovery process can be overwhelming if too much is attempted immediately following the response phase:

  • Understand that transportation recovery priorities need to be aligned with the community’s recovery priorities. Like you, stakeholders and government officials from industries that provide other critical community needs, such as energy, water, education, and healthcare, will be developing their own recovery plans as part as the overall community recovery plan. Given that the transportation network’s primary value is in helping people and goods reach their desired destinations, always remain aware of where and how any new hospitals, schools, business districts, public utilities, etc., are being recovered and rebuilt. For instance, if you are a railroad or trucking company that supplies chlorine to a water treatment plant, you will want to be aware of that facility’s recovery plans. If a community makes expanding the size of the central business district a top priority, transportation officials should then ensure that there are robust transportation options to the new business district.
  • Re-evaluate pre-planned priorities for recovery based on the incident impact. Because each disaster will result in unique community needs, certain portions of your network that were overlooked in the planning process may now be the most critical. By prioritizing the most critical portions of your transportation service, asset, infrastructure, or network, you can effectively target limited initial resources to establish a “bare minimum” from which you can continue to recover and expand.
  • In your prioritization scheme, consider the needs of any continuing response effort (such as areas with temporary housing) or especially hard-hit populations. For instance, if there is only one hospital in town and many people still require medical attention post-disaster, the transportation systems that lead to that hospital need to be recovered as quickly as possible.

Build with Resiliency

Consider the important conceptual difference between simply restoring your transportation service, asset, infrastructure, or network to “the old way” and true recovery. Anyone involved in a recovery process is likely to face considerable pressure to get things “up and running” and “back to normal” as soon as possible. At the same time, there will probably be considerable pressure to recover “bigger and better” in all regards. However, especially after catastrophic damage has resulted, you likely are going to have to weigh the short-term gratification of your business or community constituents with the true long-term recovery needs. These are never easy decisions to make, but simple restoration may not be the best decision—you may need to scale down the size and scope, or even relocate, transportation services, assets, or infrastructure:

  • Take a broad look at all the transportation modes in your community, and determine which ones are needed to provide a minimum level of emergency response and evacuation capacity. Then, map out truly critical paths, considering potential routes for evacuations, and identify the transportation modes and routes needed for access by emergency vehicles.
  • Identify opportunities to address long-term transportation network challenges as part of your designs for recovering and restoring your transportation infrastructure. This longer-term view could include addressing congestion, increasing accessibility, investigating environmental issues, installing ITS, strengthening security and safety protocols, and incorporating other hazard mitigation measures. The incremental additional costs during reconstruction are often inconsequential compared to the potential costs of repairing damage after another incident.
  • Work with recovery authorities in all transportation modes to develop an intermodal transportation network. An intermodal transportation network is important for establishing redundancies that allow people to choose from multiple travel methods in the event that one or more are restricted by future disasters.

Consider Short-Term Recovery Options

Consider Short-term Recovery Options: Consider developing temporary, short-term transportation recovery options to supplement longer time-frame projects. In line with your recovery priorities, it may be necessary to develop temporary solutions that alleviate part of the demand for your transportation service, asset, infrastructure, or overall network. Once long-term projects are complete, these short-term solutions may provide a built-in redundancy, thus increasing the resiliency of the transportation network going forward:

  • Work with local agencies, companies, and organizations to encourage telecommuting, flexible work hours, and teleconferences to help reduce demands on the various transportation systems in your community.

Short-term Recovery Solutions: LA Swift

Just two months after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast and New Orleans was flooded, FEMA via ESF #1, in coordination with the Federal Transit Administration, State of Louisiana, and Regional Transit Services, sponsored and funded a free bus service that allowed displaced individuals in Baton Rouge to take a bus to their jobs in the New Orleans region, or to look for work there. Called LA Swift, the program helped the city recover economically by connecting hundreds of workers daily to their jobs or to companies with job vacancies.

Incorporate Lessons Learned

After a successful recovery, it is essential to re-evaluate response and recovery plans, and engage those in other levels of government and the transportation industry in a joint planning, training, and exercise effort at the State level to incorporate lessons learned and better prepare for possible future incidents. Transportation recovery involves improving plans and policies based on lessons learned and best practices of other agencies and organizations:

• Consider reaching out to your local agencies and neighboring jurisdictions, the State, and transportation industry stakeholders to coordinate planning and training efforts, participate in emergency response and recovery exercises, and enter into mutual aid agreements. A collaborative, safe, and successful recovery process for a transportation network offers the opportunity to renew and improve the network in preparation for the next disaster.

I-35W Bridge: Collaboration at Work

The rebuilding of Interstate 35 West St. Anthony Falls Bridge, which collapsed in August 2007 at the Mississippi River crossing in Minnesota, is a best practice in transportation recovery. The winning bid was for $233.7 million and the project was completed within budget and ahead of time. In the process, the community, including community residents, local businesses, civic groups, government representatives from all levels, Minnesota DOT, cultural institutions, educational interests, media, as well as a contract design team, was broadly involved in the design and rebuild of the bridge. They used the symbol of a “charrette” as the collaborative mascot, explaining that a charrette is an artisan cart used in the Middle Ages. When someone came pushing the charrette through a village, it aroused great interest, because it was a sure sign that a new project was under way and those interested could express an opinion quite openly about the shape and purpose of such a project. This collaborative approach rallied a positive response for the bridge rebuild.

See MN Department of Transportation

Additional Considerations

Plan for Recovery After a Criminal Incident: If this is a criminal or terrorist-related incident, know how to initiate the recovery phase while the appropriate jurisdictional law enforcement authority continues to properly preserve the crime scene, and also while heightened security measures to prevent and/or protect against subsequent attacks are conducted.

Understand Jurisdictional Border Issues: If the transportation infrastructure crosses jurisdictional borders (to include State and international borders), understand who is in charge of what transportation service, asset, infrastructure, or system, and how each is being recovered.

Consider New Codes, Regulations, and Requirements: Consider creating and implementing new building codes, safety or environmental regulations, and public reporting requirements that will help prevent future disasters.

Learn About Local Laws and Ordinances: There are some emergency conditions where local laws and ordinances may be changed or suspended to support recovery efforts  . You should first verify your ability to do this with your State and local laws. Similarly, you may request temporary waivers from appropriate regulatory authorities, including the Federal government, to assist in the recovery process.

Communicate in a Crisis: Communicate the goals of any plan, recovery activities, and progress effectively and honestly. Often called “crisis communications,” it is perhaps the most challenging aspect of transportation recovery. Communicating regularly and honestly with the public about the progress of the recovery will help manage public expectations regarding the availability of transportation in the aftermath of an incident.