Quantifying Impact of Rockfall on Mobility of Critical Transportation Corridors

Critical transportation corridors are essential for community well-being, resilience, commerce, and tourism. The mountainous states of Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon rank among the top five states by topographic relief, with transportation corridors located in areas of significant geohazards. These hazards include landslides, rockfall, debris flows, frozen debris lobes, or slope instability due to thawing permafrost. Rockfalls and rockslides recently closed major highways in Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. During road closures, motorists and freight traffic are required to utilize limited, significantly lengthier alternative routes, which quickly become congested with increased traffic safety and efficiency. Moreover, mitigation, maintenance, and repair can take weeks to months. Understanding the frequency and magnitude of geohazards affecting transportation is the goal of this research. The research team is building a practical, data-driven framework to assess the impacts of rockfall and debris slides on highway mobility. This data and framework can aid planners, engineers, and managers with tools to make better-informed, quantitative decisions regarding mitigation and potential closures for repairs and maintenance. Specifically, the team is working towards the following with the data-drive framework: Rockfall Impacts on Mobility (RIM) database focused on the quantification of mobility impacts from rockfalls. Utilizing data-mining techniques, the team is building a database of unstable slopes. Data sources include historical records and trending news. Important to this database is mobility information such as closure times or mitigation strategies (rerouting). Develop fragility curves relating rockfall and debris volume with closure times. The risks that rockfall pose to mobility of critical corridors will be established through the development of fragility curves relating rockfall debris volume and highway closure and detour times using data available from cooperators at Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), Washington DOT (WSDOT), and Alaska DOT (AKDOT). Assess the effectiveness of slope mitigation techniques quantitatively and rigorously. In previous PacTrans research, the team developed detailed morphologic databases for sites that have been mitigated, and those adjacent sites that have not. Standards for mitigation techniques, such as “scaling” are often implemented and performed based on subjective judgement. Closure during these mitigation efforts can significantly impact mobility. The data-driven approach will incorporate site data and mitigation strategies on corridor closures and impacts. This framework will provide planners with the necessary tools to make better-informed, quantitative decisions about mitigation and potential closures.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $360000
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium

    University of Washington
    More Hall Room 112
    Seattle, WA  United States  98195-2700

    Oregon Department of Transportation

    555 13th Street NE
    Salem, OR  United States  97301

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    University of Alaska Fairbanks

    College of Engineering & Mines
    P.O. Box 755960
    Fairbanks, AK  United States  99775-5960
  • Project Managers:

    Cunningham, Keith

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Alaska Fairbanks

    College of Engineering & Mines
    P.O. Box 755960
    Fairbanks, AK  United States  99775-5960

    Oregon State University, Corvallis

    Department of Civil Engineering
    202 Apperson Hall
    Corvallis, OR  United States  97331-2302

    University of Washington, Seattle

    433 Brooklyn Ave. NE
    Box 359472
    Seattle, WA  United States  98195-9472
  • Principal Investigators:

    Cunningham, Keith

    Leshchinsky, Ben

    Olsen, Michael

    Wartman, Joseph

  • Start Date: 20180816
  • Expected Completion Date: 20200815
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01701466
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium
  • Contract Numbers: 69A3551747110
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Apr 5 2019 3:07PM