ICNet will continue its series of webinars this Spring on topics related to climate change and infrastructure. Webinars are on the last Wednesday of the month 2-3 pm ET.
Our March webinar will explore MaineDOT’s responses to the challenges of building and maintaining a transportation system in a changing climate. April's webinar will provide the current status of Infrastructure Engineer and Climate Science, while May's webinar will cover Storm Surge Risk Modeling and Coastal Engineering Adaptations in a Changing Climate
Coping with Climate at MaineDOT: Planning, Practice and Policy
Charlie Hebson and Judy Gates, Maine DOT
What is MaineDOT doing about climate change?” – this simple question is regularly asked. Regrettably, there is no one simple answer to offer. More recently, the topic has also been cast as the problem of “extreme weather”, in part to defuse the polemics around global warming and climate change and also focus on that which a DOT has to directly address in project design. In some respects this makes our life easier. After all, transportation engineers have always planned and designed for extreme events. But this rephrasing hasn’t necessarily clarified matters. The problem – and the question – remain. In this webinar we explore MaineDOT’s various responses to the challenges of building and maintaining a transportation system that protects public safety and capital investment while promoting mobility and economic growth.
Planning, research and policy development for climate change are largely under the direction of the Environmental Office. Design standards are developed in conjunction with senior practitioners. Policy for design and planning are ultimately approved by executive management. In the category of planning, MaineDOT is supporting the development of a benefit-cost model for optimizing project design subject to possible future climate scenarios. MaineDOT has also sponsored a variety of technical studies by the U.S. Geological Survey and National Weather Service to update methods and to evaluate trends in peak flow hydrology. We are fortunate to have the Maine Geological Survey as an expert source on likely sea level rise scenarios, information critical to a coastal state such as Maine. Design practice is informed by this work in hydrology, precipitation, and sea level rise. Thus far, our attention has focused on hydrology and hydraulics; temperature has not received the same attention.
Translating climate change predictions into design standards is greatly complicated by the large uncertainty inherent in such predictions. Absent climate change, the usual design methods are already characterized by significant uncertainty; climate change predictions exacerbate the problem. Ignoring change comes at a cost; attempting to account for change also comes at cost. This helps to explain the conservative approach to addressing climate change as taken by many state DOT’s, including Maine’s. Balancing a conservative asset management approach with the fast-moving science of climate change into the foreseeable future is discussed.