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Cost-efficient and storm surge-sensitive bridge design for coastal Maine.
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  • Abstract:
    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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