Adaptation of road infrastructure to climate change

Road infrastructure is subject to a constantly changing environment: Technological progress, demographic change and a changing climate are the basic conditions to which today’s road planning has to adapt.

Even if the precise extent of climate change and its impacts are uncertain, it has been proven that extreme weather events such as hot spells and heavy rainfall are on the increase. The implications this may carry for road infrastructure is displayed by past events: Long-lasting heat waves can lead to heat damage in asphalt and concrete carriageways (rutting, spalling). Occasionally, severe rainfall is responsible for the flooding of parts of the road in-frastructure, endangering traffic flow and road users.

Predicted climate changes therefore present a challenge for the safety and operational relia-bility of roads, tunnels, bridges and other infrastructure constructions. To ensure long-term use of the facilities means it is absolutely necessary to take emerging climate changes into consideration already at planning and construction stage. This is the only way to efficiently implement financial support and guarantee a high level of transport safety. Furthermore, the integration of climate adaptation issues in road infrastructure maintenance and operation will take on more importance in future.

In 2008, the German Government named the transport sector (including road infrastructure) as a priority issue in terms of climate change adaptation within the „German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change“ (DAS). The DAS states the dimensioning of drainage infra-structure to allow roads to withstand heavy rainfall and the use of modified construction materials for heat-endangered road surfaces as key starting points for adaptation.

Germany’s road infrastructure is geographically centrally placed within Europe and thus can-not only be considered at national level – cross-border solutions are also important. There-fore, the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) develops cross-border adaptation activities within European and international networks. European exchange between research institutes and civil authorities for road infrastructure is already in process, especially in the context of the “Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories“ (FEHRL) or the Conference of European Directors of Roads (CEDR).

In order to accommodate emerging challenges, the BASt has developed a roadmap for the adaptation to climate change for road infrastructures. The main aim of the roadmap is to make all main connections „climate-proof“ by 2030 through practical implementation of adaptation measures, as well as appropriate alteration of technical regulations. The first milestone on the way to an adapted and resilient road infrastructure is the BASt-initiated research programme „Climate Change Adaptation of Road Infrastructure“ (Adaptation der Straßenverkehrsinfrastruktur an den Klimawandel), or AdSVIS for short.

Until the end of 2014, the vulnerability of individual road infrastructure objects as well as climate im-pacts on the maintenance service will be assessed and adaptation options will be developed and tested in the framework of the 15 AdSVIS subprojects. A central aspect of this research remains federal highways, however research results can also be applied to country or district roads, as well as to other modes of transport.

BASt Roadmap for climate change adaption for road infrastructure



bmvilogo strasse21BaSt



logo strasse21BaSt