Study Says Climate Change Could Lead to Rougher Roads

Expect some rough roads ahead.

Literally, if a new study is any indication of how U.S. roads as they are currently being built might fare in a warmer world.

A study by professors at Arizona State University shows that global warming could add billions of dollars to the nation’s transportation budget for pavement costs alone.

“Transportation infrastructure is built to last decades, but engineering protocols in the United States assume climate stationarity, which may result in accelerated degradation and, consequently, increased costs,” a study out from academics at ASU states.

According to the study, if the standard practice for material selection is not changed to adapt to rising average temperatures, it could add up to $21.8 billion to pavement costs by 2070 under the same moderate global warming scenarios that predict average global temperature increases of 1.8 C.

The standard practice for selecting materials to build roads is based on average temperatures from 1966 to 1995, which differs from averaged based on data studied from 1985 to 2014, according to Shane Underwood, an assistant professor of civil engineering at ASU and one of the authors of the study.

“That may not be applicable going forward,” Underwood said. “That’s largely a decision on expectations that the future will look at lot like the past. That uncertainty can lead to higher costs.”

While the sweltering Southwestern U.S. is often the region talked about when people think of global warming, interestingly authors found that roads there will not be affected as much as roads in the Southeast or Midwest areas of the country.

States like Florida, North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri may experience the highest cost impact per lane per mile.

Under a moderate warming scenario studied, the median impact in Florida by 2070 is expected to be $25,847 per mile per lane, in North Carolina the impact is expected to be $23,992, in Illinois the impact is expected to be $24,066 and in…

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