Climate Change Adaptation for Transportation Infrastructure

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water squares Rotterdam Netherlands
To counter excess water, Rotterdam, Netherlands, has built two water squares that can hold 750 cubic meters and 1800 cubic metres of water, respectively.

Transport infrastructure is usually the first to bear the brunt of weather events. Because essential services like power lines, telecommunications, water, wastewater, and sewage system are generally built alongside transport infrastructure, it is the lifeline to any society. Damage to it is due to extreme natural events will not only hinder transportation but can block access to critical services in an emergency.

The study, “Climate Change and Transport Infrastructures: State of the Art,” that Laura Moretti and Guiseppe Loprencipe authored reviewed and analysed several research papers on climate change and its influence on transport infrastructure.

It looked at the impacts of climate change on infrastructure, methods and technology used to mitigate the effects on infrastructure, and best practices adopted by agency bodies worldwide and their pros and cons.

The study identified three climate change challenges to transport infrastructure: extreme heat, precipitation, and sea-level rise. Then it looks at how engineering and architectural solutions can make infrastructure resilient and adaptable to climate change.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th assessment report, human activities influence global climate change by releasing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. The same report has shown climate predictions under various carbon emissions scenarios.

The predictions show that the 21st-century temperature will increase by at least 0.61 degrees celsius and there will be increased heat wave occurrences that will raise sea levels between 0.45 to 0.82 meters due to thermal expansion and melting of glaciers and ice caps.

Climate change impacts will only increase in frequency and intensity, and protecting these infrastructures requires a deep understanding of future weather patterns and climate conditions during its service life.

These events will negatively impact society, economy, environment, health and migration. They will also increase the frequency and intensity of rainfalls, droughts, and wind patterns, creating intense cyclones and hurricanes that will be devastating.

These anticipations have led some countries to begin formulating and implementing climate adaptation and mitigation strategies which the European Union adopted in 2013, and plans to do more in terms of climate-proofing infrastructure to make it more resilient to the changing weather patterns.


Temperature is predicted to increase in the following decades due to climate change. Urban areas with many grey infrastructures such as tall buildings and impermeable structures like pavements constructed using asphalt concrete can trap a lot of heat, hinder wind circulations, and create a micro-climate. For instance, asphalt concrete absorbs 95% of solar energy, contributing to urban heating.

The study examined various pavement materials and designs to counter heating. Solutions include the use of paving materials that absorbs less solar energy and reflects the light, reflective coating layer in pavements, the use of porous materials that allow water or fluid to move on its surface and assist in evaporation, and the use of modular pavements which allows for vegetation inside its gaps can produce a cooling effect.

Heat can adversely affect people’s health. In very hot and humid countries, they have designed some cooling mechanisms to help their citizens cope with the heat and preserve their health.

For example, in crowded bus stations in Delhi, India, they built fresh air chambers to refresh passengers while waiting for their bus rides. In China, they have hydraulic systems that spray cool water to bus passengers on hot days, and in some cities wading pools can offer opportunities to refresh people.

Aside from temperature rise, there are also other climatic extremes happening. For example, in the last few years, in several US states, an increase in snow activity has been observed.

This has caused damage to their traffic systems. Some measures were taken to avoid these, such as using anti-freezing agents, applying antifreeze sprays to reduce the freezing of roads, and combining deicing agents with asphalt mixes to speed up ice melting.


With the frequency and increased rainfall predicted, excess amounts of water should be managed well. Permeability of the ground or surface will determine how much water will be absorbed, evaporated, and retained in the surface or runoff.

Some cities have built water squares, extensive underground storage facilities, designated areas for trees and vegetation, and substituted waterproof surfaces for permeable or penetrable ones to counter excess water.

They have built two water squares that can hold 750 cubic meters and 1800 cubic meters of water, respectively. In addition, they have constructed a large underground parking and water storage capacity of 10,000 cubic meters. An example of water squares is found in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Singapore, a country identified as one with a high risk of flooding, is also doing the same mitigation measures to protect its citizens and their city against flooding.

In New York, they constructed the Big U, 10-mile-long protection around Manhattan a few years after Hurricane Sandy. Barcelona, Spain, has built 15 water retention chambers to store massive amounts of water.

Sea Level Rise

Sea-level rise is also predicted due to warming oceans and melting glaciers. Counties and cities along the coasts are the most at risk of rising sea levels. The OECD listed 20 port cities with the highest number of people at risk. The top 10 cities have a 400 million population, and all of them are in Asia.

Construction of dikes and seawalls, beach and coastal rehabilitation, and structure elevations are the usual defence and adaptation strategies implemented To counter the gradual encroachment of water and sudden flooding during typhoons and high tides—relocation and abandonment of hazardous areas as the last recourse.

They have constructed MOSE mobile gates in Italy to protect their harbour and Lagoon of Venice against flooding. These retractable mobile gates are placed at the port’s mouth, where the lagoon connects to the Arctic sea, to protect the lagoon from high tides and flooding.

The article presents some examples of adaptation and mitigation measures that the paper discussed. Read the full research document by clicking on the button below:

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