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Maryland Study Launches Response to Climate Change Impact on Transportation

Eroding vague notions with a targeted pilot study

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How vulnerable will our bridge and roadway infrastructure be in fifty years? A hundred? The Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) is spending time and resources to investigate these potential vulnerabilities in the years 2050 and 2100. The culprits are climate change stressors—sea level change, storm surge from extreme weather events, and increased intensity from precipitation.

SHA initiated a pilot study to investigate a few of their asset locations and their threats. The first tier, initial asset screening, used digital maps and GIS data to identify exposed assets—those ones most clearly at risk—from the Atlantic Ocean to the Alleghany Mountains in western Maryland.

Two counties were chosen: Anne Arundel and Somerset. Within these two geographically distinct conditions, the team performed a second tier analysis that evaluated key asset information (e.g. age), climate data (e.g. flood elevation), and other vulnerability indicators (e.g. current frequency of flooding).

The pilot study helped them build a framework for assessing vulnerability and prioritizing their infrastructure needs. With this knowledge, they can continue to move forward and assess other counties while making important planning and policy decisions.

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