Iowa DOT Riverine Infrastructure Data Base (RIDB) for Rapid Assessment of Vulnerable Infrastructure

During flood events, it can be difficult finding relevant hydrologic and hydraulic information for assessing the vulnerability of infrastructure. In many cases, information is not available or can be very time consuming to obtain and evaluate. Without good information regarding the hydraulic relationship between the infrastructure and flood discharges, it is difficult to be proactive with regard to the protection of lives, property and infrastructure. Too often DOT’s and other infrastructure owners are reactive instead of proactive regarding flood events resulting in unnecessary damages and risks to public safety. In 2008, an extreme flood event occurred along many large stream basins in the central and eastern part of Iowa which impacted Interstate 80 and many other primary routes. During these flood events it was critical to assess and predict which highway locations had the potential for overtopping from flood waters so that safe detour routes could be identified for the traveling public. The effort to evaluate the vulnerability of the roadway to flooding required significant DOT staff time and resources to reconcile project datum’s and correlate hydraulic estimates to determine accurate stage vs. discharge relationships (rating curves) at specific bridge/highway locations. The Iowa DOT was fortunate that a bridge replacement project was under construction on I-80 over the Cedar River at the time of the 2008 floods. Since the DOT had design information regarding the low roadway and detailed hydraulic data (a rating curve), the Interstate was closed before flood waters impacted the traveling public. Traffic was proactively detoured along other primary routes preventing significant traffic delays and diversion of traffic into the local roadway system. This event was the impetus for the development of an innovative Riverine Infrastructure Data Base (RIDB). The Iowa Department of Transportation owns approximately 2100 bridges over streams and rivers on the primary highway system. Many of these highway bridge and roadway sites are vulnerable to flood damage and overtopping during flood events. An innovative and proactive approach to assessing the vulnerability and risk of transportation projects and systems will be accomplished by the development of a Riverine Infrastructure Data Base (RIDB). The relational database will incorporate hydraulic (flow and flood elevations) and infrastructure (low road and bridge beam elevations) that can be utilized to provide the rapid assessment of riverine locations when the potential for roadway overtopping or bridge inundation could occur. The Iowa DOT has been collecting GPS survey information of bridge/roadway locations along with hydraulic and historic flood information over the years from consultants, staff and student interns. The collection of this data provides a repository of information that can be used to quickly ascertain the vulnerability of highway infrastructure and potentially other assets. The Iowa DOT has completed a mapping of Iowa’s stream network in a Graphical Information System (GIS) environment for site identification and flood forecasting/scenario assessments. Additional student interns will be employed to perform data mining of developed projects to populate rating curve and low road/beam information from bridge replacement projects into the RIDB. The goal is to populate every site on the primary highway system in Iowa that has a drainage area of 10 or more square miles with accurate hydraulic and infrastructure information into the RIDB. The Iowa DOT has utilized the BridgeWatch program since 2006 to provide alerts to maintenance personnel when rainfall events or stream gages indicate the potential for significant flooding at scour critical bridges to implement FHWA required Plans of Action (POA’s). In addition to using the National Weather Service (NWS) Doppler radar rainfall and United States Geological Service (USGS) gage information, the BridgeWatch program can utilize the University of Iowa’s hydrologic model (CUENCAS) to provide flood forecasting at sites where the highway infrastructure is most vulnerable to flooding. The Iowa Flood Center has created a hydrologic model for the entire State which can incorporate real-time rainfall events and forecast resultant peak flows along any basin in the State of Iowa. The hydrologic model can provide a predicted flood discharge that can be compared with threshold data in the BridgeWatch program based on the stage/discharge relationship information from the RIDB. The program can provide real-time alerts to maintenance personnel when the potential for roadway overtopping could occur. By merging these technologies and providing accurate hydraulic and relevant infrastructure information, the response to potential flooding would certainly improve and allow mitigation measures to reduce flood damages and enhance public safety. The work proposed for this pilot will develop the RIDB to leverage current and innovative technologies to provide a rapid assessment and response to the potential impacts of flooding on Iowa’s vulnerable infrastructure. The RIDB management system will also be incorporated into the Iowa DOT’s GIS Portal workspace. This Enterprise system will provide a graphical interface for data sharing among the Districts and other Offices within the Iowa DOT. The GIS Portal will contain observation information during a flood event (e.g., flood levels relative to roadway and bridge locations, photos, etc.) to evaluate the potential for roadway overtopping or other infrastructure impacts. The operational data will be documented to enhance the predictability and future use of this information for designing more resilient infrastructure.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $125000
  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Iowa Department of Transportation

    800 Lincoln Way
    Ames, IA  United States  50010
  • Managing Organizations:

    Iowa Department of Transportation

    800 Lincoln Way
    Ames, IA  United States  50010
  • Project Managers:

    Clute, Khyle

  • Performing Organizations:

    Iowa State University, Ames

    Center for Transportation Research and Education
    2711 South Loop Drive, Suite 4700
    Ames, IA  United States  50010-8664
  • Principal Investigators:

    Knickerbocker, Skylar

  • Start Date: 20200701
  • Expected Completion Date: 20240630
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01910293
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Iowa Department of Transportation
  • Files: RIP, STATEDOT
  • Created Date: Feb 28 2024 1:13PM