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Adaptive Planning for Transportation Corridors Threatened by Sea Level Rise

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This paper describes a generalizable planning and assessment process for

transportation planning adaptive to sea level rise (SLR). State Route 37

(SR-37) is the California highway most vulnerable to temporary flooding

and permanent inundation as a result of SLR. Like many other coastal highways

in the United States, SR-37 is adjacent to protected coastal systems

(e.g., beaches, tidal wetlands), meaning that any activity on the highway is

subject to regulatory oversight. Both SR-37 and the surrounding marshes

are vulnerable to the effects of SLR. Because of a combination of congestion

and threats from SLR, planning for a new highway adaptive and resilient

to SLR impacts was conducted in the context of stakeholder participation

and Eco-Logical, a planning process developed by FHWA to better integrate

transportation and environmental planning. To understand which

stretches of SR-37 might be most vulnerable to SLR and to what degree, a

model of potential inundation was developed with a recent, high-resolution

elevation assessment conducted using lidar. This model projects potential

inundation by comparing future daily and extreme tide levels with surrounding

ground elevations. The vulnerability of each segment was scored

according to its exposure to SLR effects, sensitivity to SLR, and adaptive

capacity (ability of other roadways to absorb traffic). The risk to each segment

from SLR was determined by estimating and aggregating impacts to

costs of improvement, recovery time (from impacts), public safety impacts,

economic impacts, impacts on transit routes, proximity to communities

of concern, and impacts on recreational activities.

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