Reducing Flood Vulnerability of Communities with Limited Road Access by Optimizing Bridge Elevation

The collapse of several key road bridges by flood waters can result in the isolation of an entire community when these structures are located at key, or critical points or junctures. This scenario was dramatically illustrated by the deadly 2013 floods in Colorado, which affected the counties of Larimer, Weld and Boulder among others. Residents of Drake, a community near Estes Park, had no exit routes and had to be evacuated by helicopter. Other towns and communities in the area were left with few or no routes for delivering help or exiting the site. The current approach for determining the elevation of a road bridge over waters at flood stage considers the location of the structure in isolation. The importance of the structure relative to the entire network for accessing the served community is not formally considered as a design criterion and bridge elevations are typically determined for the same flood recurrence. However, the failure of a bridge in a locality with few or no access alternatives carries significantly more negative consequences than the failure of another bridge that can be bypassed. This approach results in an uneven vulnerability of many road systems in the protection offered to their served communities. This research project will provide a prototype tool for the determination of the appropriate elevation of bridges in a road network serving a community with access compromised by a flood event. A holistic and systematic determination of safe elevations will help decision makers to prioritize resources for road bridge retrofitting, as well as designers in the engineering of these structures. This will be a reliability - based approach that accounts for the consequences of bridge failure rather than just the structural reliability.


  • English


  • Status: Completed
  • Funding: $116850
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Research and Innovative Technology Administration

    University Transportation Centers Program
    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    Mountain-Plains Consortium

    North Dakota State University
    Fargo, ND  United States  58108
  • Project Managers:

    Tolliver, Denver

  • Performing Organizations:

    Colorado State University

    Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
    Campus Delivery 1372
    Fort Collins, CO  United States  80523
  • Principal Investigators:

    Bolivar, Senior

    van de Lindt, John

  • Start Date: 20130930
  • Expected Completion Date: 20190930
  • Actual Completion Date: 20210103
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program
  • Source Data: MPC-448

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01528067
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Mountain-Plains Consortium
  • Contract Numbers: DTRT13-G-UTC38
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Jun 12 2014 1:00AM