How Climate Change Affects Transportation Infrastructure

A sobering post today from the Streetsblog Network on the importance of preparing our transportation system for the effects of climate change. Megan McConville at The City Fix reports on a panel titled "Perspectives on Adaptation to Climate Change," hosted by the Engineers Forum on Sustainability.

The message? "We can no longer focus exclusively on avoiding the unmanageable, but must begin managing the unavoidable."

McConville writes:

Dr. George Eads of Charles River Associates discussed four impacts of climate change that will affect our nation’s transportation infrastructure:
  1. Sea levels will rise, jeopardizing coastal roadways, railways, airports and transit systems.
  2. An increase in the number of hot days and heat waves will influence how infrastructure withstands high temperatures.  For example, highways could experience increased rutting (the carving of deep grooves by traffic) due to softer asphalt.
  3. A greater number of intense precipitation events could cause added transportation disruptions, as could more frequent strong hurricanes.
  4. Finally, rising arctic temperatures could threaten ice roads and highways built on permafrost in Alaska.

Transportation professionals must act today to minimize disruptions to the nation’s transportation systems tomorrow.  First, climate change must be incorporated into decision frameworks.  Federal, state, and local governments, in collaboration with owners and operators of infrastructure, should inventory critical infrastructure, particularly in vulnerable coastal areas.  When making investment decisions, governments and private infrastructure providers should consider climate change adaptation in their long-term capital improvement plans, facility designs, maintenance practices, operations, and emergency response plans.  They should apply risk-based investment analyses that weigh the costs of adapting infrastructure against the costs of failure.

It's good to know that at least some engineers out there are thinking about these things. But how long will it take this awareness to make it to the local DOT level?

More cheery news from the network: Copenhagenize links to some great videos about the Bike Church of Asbury Park, New Jersey (originally at WalkBike Jersey, we missed it the first time around). Bike Friendly Oak Cliff has a photo of some innovative bike parking at a local tavern. And DC Bicycle Transportation Examiner has pictures of one possible solution to the bike-rail connection problem.