Cost-Efficient and Storm Surge-Sensitive Bridge Design for Coastal Maine
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Cost-Efficient and Storm Surge-Sensitive Bridge Design for Coastal Maine

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      Climatic variation felt through changing weather patterns is having increasingly acute effects on Maine's transportation infrastructure. Acute risk occurs as a result of events, such as storms and flooding, while chronic risk surrounds longer range changes due to climate over time. It is acute risk that results in an increased need for disaster designation and response, increased risk of collateral property damage, and threats to safety of the traveling public. This type of risk can be mitigated by early preparation. Because of uncertainty about the future of climate and weather variability, chronic risk is much harder to gauge. This uncertainty can create paralysis in an agency charged with making and justifying long-term, fiscally-responsible decisions around the safety and efficiency of public travel. But long lifecycles of most transportation infrastructure demand adaptation via early preparation to protect significant taxpayer investments into the reasonably foreseeable future. This research effort builds on cost modeling developed to estimate fiscal impacts of related state legislation and develops an approach to estimate acute and chronic cost/risk tradeoffs for a subset of transportation project needs along the Maine coast. The general goal is to address cost and risk issues associated with projected sea level rise (SLR) and threats to state infrastructure elements that are also designed to pass freshwater streams and rivers. More specifically, this project aims to help develop storm surge-sensitive design standards and approaches for large, tidally influenced transportation structures along the Maine coast. For each of the two major tidal regimes along the coast, the project aims to 1) obtain and analyze surge frequency from an existing tide gauge; 2) obtain and analyze flood flows from the corresponding stream flow gauge at the site (if none available, use regional hydrologic analysis to develop) and develop a joint probability distribution with coastal storm surges; 3) focus on one type of structure (bridges); and 4) identify installation costs versus damage risk-tradeoffs under different SLR, storm surge, and river flood scenarios extending out over the useful life of the asset.
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