Adaptation of road infrastructure to climate change

The German federal road network encompasses approximately 12,900 km of motorways and around 39,600 km of federal roads (altogether around 53,000 km), 39,000 bridges and over 240 tunnels. Its overall monetary value is around 360 billion Euros. As roads have a planned period of use of between 30 – 50 years, and bridges and tunnel constructions 80 – 100 years, adapting regulations for roads and bridge constructions which take projected climate change impacts into consideration are already necessary now. BASt initiated the research programme AdSVIS in 2011 for exactly this purpose.

AdSVIS is made up of 15 subprojects that together aim at

  • The analysis of climate change impacts on road infrastructure and road maintenance,
  • The conduction of vulnerability assessments for individual road infrastructure elements and
  • The development and testing of adaptation options and technologies

Thus, AdSVIS identifies climate change-related risks that might appear either during plan-ning and construction or during operation and maintenance. Therefore, pointers on the reduction in road infrastructure lifespan due to climate impacts and the achievement of sufficient durability by applying adaptation measures are provided.

The initial phase identifies potential climate-related risks posed to road infrastructure. Due to the assessment of regional climate models and their combination with road network data, road infrastructure elements which are either already affected or threatened by climate change are identified. Following this, the data will be used to establish vulnerability analyses, as well as for developing criteria and adaptation measures for at-risk infrastructures. Therefore, risks to road infrastructures can be detected at an early stage and preventative measures can be taken.

The RIVA project ("Risk analysis of key transit axes of the federal main road network in the context of climate change") is at the core of AdSVIS, the aim of which was to develop a methodology for identifying, analysing and assessing climate-related risks and validate these on selected routes in the German section of the TEN-T (Trans-European transport network).

Other projects have a particular focus on the dimensioning of road drainage systems and temperature-related properties of asphalt and concrete pavements, as well as the climate change impacts on bridges and tunnel constructions.

Climate change may not only have a direct impact upon roads and infrastructural construc-tions; therefore AdSVIS also examines slope failure and landslides on road perimeters, as well as road maintenance issues. Therefore, impacts of climate change on road infrastructure can be broadly defined and assessed. This is crucial for developing appropriate adaptation measures, further development of regulations and designing a resilient road infrastructure.

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