Understanding Impact of Climate Change on Highway Hydraulic Design Procedures

The consequences of climate extremes have the ability to create significant damage to the state’s existing transportation infrastructure on a scale that will grow over time. The potential consequences include: damage to highway pavements due to increased temperatures and more severe and frequent droughts; the inundation of roadways, bridges, and ferry infrastructure in low lying coastal areas, due to sea level rise; stronger storm surges along the coast and the subsequent damage to bridges and roadways; and the buckling of railroad tracks due to higher temperatures. Over the coming decades, state highway agencies risks the possibility of spending tens of billions of dollars of state funds to maintain or replace damaged infrastructure, due to climate extremes. Although influence of climate extremes on highway infrastructure needs to be evaluated, the complexity and interdependency of various factors makes aggregation of factors to predict impact of climate challenging. However, it is quite possible to predict the impact of individual factor such as precipitation. Changes in mean precipitation levels seem to have less impact on transportation than sea level rise. However, increase in the intensity and frequency of precipitation can impact roads such as slope instability, reduced bearing capacity due to saturation, etc. Similarly, the runoff resulting from increased precipitation could also lead to increased peak stream flow, which then would impact the sizing requirement for bridges and gutters. To mitigate the impact of flooding, engineers are expected to modify highway hydraulic designs. However, incorporating the results of climate models will have very large cost implications for future infrastructure. Overestimating the magnitude of peak flows suggested by climate models can result in costly over sizing of drainage infrastructure, while underestimating may leave infrastructure vulnerable and their resultant flooding impacts on surrounding lands and structures inadequately addressed. Therefore, objectives of this study include identifying current resiliency of highway drainage infrastructure and identifying cost-effective adoption solutions that extend service life despite not having been designed for climate extremes.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • Contract to a Performing Organization has not yet been awarded.


  • Status: Proposed
  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    Texas Department of Transportation

    11th and Brazos Streets
    Austin, TX  United States  78701
  • Start Date: 20151101
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01590791
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: University of Oklahoma, Norman
  • Files: UTC, RiP
  • Created Date: Feb 22 2016 10:44AM