"The Long-Term Effect of Earthquakes: Using Geospatial Solutions to Evaluate Heightened Rockfall Activity on Critical Lifelines"

Rockfall is a chronic slope hazard along transportation corridors throughout North America, where tens of millions of dollars are spent annually on rock slope maintenance and mitigation works (Turner and Schuster 2012). The problem is particularly acute throughout much of the Pacific Northwest (PNW). In this region, the combination of topographic relief, high rates of precipitation, and elevated seismicity create a setting where rockfall is widespread and pervasive. Rockfall hazards result in frequent road closures and lane restrictions, damage to infrastructure, and loss-of-life and injuries to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. Thus, rockfall directly impacts driver safety, mobility, and accessibility for many critical lifelines across the PNW. These impacts are amplified by moderate- to large-magnitude seismic events— both during and long after shaking. Seismic activity poses one of the most significant threats to nearly all parts of the PNW (Goldfinger et al. 2012, Frankel et al. 2018). Moreover, it has been shown that earthquakes may dramatically increase rockfall activity (Massey et al. 2014), both during shaking and the months and years after an earthquake. This current PacTrans proposal will analyze the datasets collected from PacTrans funded previous efforts, and to answer the following research questions: (1) What was the “baseline” rockfall activity at the study sites, and how did this vary (if at all) with fluctuations in local climate conditions? (2) What are the mechanisms and factors that govern rockfall both during and after the event; how, if at all, do these vary from the pre-earthquake activity? (3) How soon after the earthquake does rockfall activity and magnitude return to baseline conditions? (4) How is this influenced by short-term local weather conditions during this period of “recovery”? Answering these questions is critical for transportation agencies to plan for and allocate resources optimally to address maintenance needs for rock debris removal and slope mitigation, thus ensuring efficient mobility of the transportation network.


  • English


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


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

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

    Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium

    University of Washington
    More Hall Room 112
    Seattle, WA  United States  98195-2700
  • Project Managers:

    Darrow, Margaret M

  • 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

    Civil and Environmental Engineering Department
    201 More Hall, Box 352700
    Seattle, WA  United States  98195-2700
  • Principal Investigators:

    Wartman, Joseph

    Leschinsky, Ben

    Olsen, Michael

  • Start Date: 20200916
  • Expected Completion Date: 20230215
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01763326
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Pacific Northwest Transportation Consortium
  • Contract Numbers: 69A3551747110
  • Files: UTC, RIP
  • Created Date: Feb 3 2021 6:52PM