Those infuriating potholes that jangle your mind and damage your vehicle aren’t the half of our transportation issues as we drive into Climate Change. First, we have an old system of roads and bridges that are in deep disrepair. According to TRIP, 9% of Rochester’s bridges are structurally deficient and 33% are functionally obsolete. CONDITIONS AND SAFETY OF NEW YORK’S ROADS AND BRIDGES (March 2015, TRIP a national transportation research group)
It’s absurd to have to explain to the public why our transportation system has to be properly maintained. And yet we do.
Transportation Group Says 1/3 Of Rochester Area Roads In Poor Or Mediocre Condition A transportation organization that pushes for more money for roads and bridges says that the Rochester area's infrastructure needs a lot of work. The group called "TRIP," consists of people involved in the highway and construction industry, related unions and other organizations. But its director of Research and Policy, Rocky Moretti, says they pull their data from information available from state and local governments. (March 15, 2015) WXXI News
It’s not only absurd that we have a massive transportation system that is not being maintained; we haven’t even begun to discuss the very expensive and unpopular adaptations required to keep this system functioning as Climate Change produces more extreme weather and heat. Just to get your heads around what Climate Change has already dumped (think flooding) on our roads, this map [See Figure 2.18: Observed Change in Very Heavy Precipitation] shows that the Northeast has experienced a 71% percent increase in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events from 1958 to 2012. In other words, this deluge is the change we have already observed. This also means that all our infrastructures—transportation, water, wastewater, telecommunications (think telephone poles)—are already being challenged by Climate Change.
According New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)’s ClimAid report, this is what our region needs to do to get our transportation system prepared, that is, made ready for Climate Change that’s beyond mere routine maintenance.
“Examples of adaptation strategies for the Transportation sector described in Chapter 9 relate to coastal hazards, heat hazards, precipitation hazards, and winter storms including snow and ice. Strategies explored include raising the level of new critical infrastructure and essential service sites; including climate change adaptation knowledge when retrofitting older infrastructure; switching to more durable materials; changing land-use planning mechanisms; and creating increased resilience through flexible adaptation pathways in operations, management, and policy decisions.”(Page 11, Responding to Climate Change in New York State (ClimAID) [full report]
To be fair, our local transportation authorities know about this and what needs to be done.
The Impacts of Climate Change: Mitigation and Adaptation | Independent of mitigating climate change, adapting transportation facilities and programs to be more resistant and resilient is equally if not more important. Adaptation activities as they relate to transportation are clearly a public responsibility given that the vast majority of associated infrastructure and services are provided by government entities. Accordingly, evaluation of the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to impacts resulting from more severe and intense weather events, including storms and corresponding flooding, needs to be conducted so that the reconstruction and replacement of these facilities includes design features and operations and management capabilities that account for these impacts.” (Long Range Transportation Plan 2035, Genesee Transportation Council)
But what chance do we have to get our transportation system ready for more Climate Change when we cannot even agree on how to fund our existing system as it crumbles under our tires?
Because the public is not being educated on the links between our transportation system and Climate Change, imagine trying to talk to an unprepared public about pouring millions of more tax dollars into our transportation system for a crisis they don’t care about.
We are light-years from actually implementing what we know has to be done in order to adapt our transportation system for Climate Change. This gap between facts and necessary action highlights how far behind we are from actually addressing the mother of all problems.