Background and Goals
Climate change is altering the climate and weather conditions which roads, tunnels and bridges are exposed to. Therefore, a roadmap which aims to adapt roads and structures to the effects of climate change was developed in the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt). Part of this roadmap is the research program AdSVIS. It consists of several subprojects which identify the relevant effects of climate change, assess the vulnerability of individual objects of road infrastructure and develop adaptation measures.
The German highway network covers about 12,900 km motorways and approximately 39,600 km national roads (together approximately 53,000 kilometers), around 39,000 bridges and more than 240 tunnels. They provide a total asset of around 360 billion euros. As roads have an expected useful life period of 30 to 50 years, bridges and tunnels will last around 80 to 100 years, it is already necessary to adjust the regulations for road and bridge constructions so that they take into account the consequences of the projected climate change. For this, the research program AdSVIS was initiated.
AdSVIS consists of several subprojects that jointly aim to
- analyses the effects of climate change on the road infrastructure and road maintenance services,
- carry out vulnerability assessments for individual elements of the road infrastructure and
- to develop and test adaptation options and technologies.
- Mecklenburg Western Pomerania
- Lower Saxony
- Rhineland Palatinate
Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change
Step 1: Understand and describe climate change
no separate climate scenario developed: evaluation of regional climate models
- Heat waves
- Extreme precipitation (incl. hail, snow)
- short term = next year’s / decades
- medium term = to 2050
Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact
Although the exact extent of climate change and its impacts is fraught with uncertainty, it is considered certain that extreme weather events such as heat waves and heavy rainfall will increase. We know from the past which consequences this might have for the road infrastructure: Prolonged heat waves can cause heat damage in asphalt and concrete pavement (rutting, spalling). Heavy precipitation can lead to parts of the road infrastructure being flooded. This endangers traffic flows and road users.
Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances
AdSVIS identifies climate change-induced risks that may arise during the planning and construction or during the operation and maintenance of road infrastructure. For this, regional climate models are evaluated and blended with the road network data to identify the affected and vulnerable to climate change elements of the road infrastructure. Subsequently, this data is used for the preparation of vulnerability analyses, to derive criteria for vulnerable infrastructure and to develop adaptation measures. Thus risks for road infrastructure can be detected early and measures taken for their reduction.
In the centre of AdSVIS lies the project 'Risk Analysis Transport Axis of the Highway Network in the Context of Climate Change' (RIVA). The aim of the project was to develop a methodology for identifying, analysing and assessing the risks of climate change and to validate on selected road sections in the German part of the TEN-T (Trans-European Network - Transport).
Other projects deal with the dimensioning of road drainage facilities and the temperature-dependent behaviour of asphalt and concrete fortifications as well as with the impact of climate change on bridges and tunnels.
Since climate change may not only cause direct damage to roads and infrastructure buildings, AdSVIS also concerns itself with hillside and bank slides alongside roads as well as with issues of the operational service. Hence the consequences of climate change for the road infrastructure can be thoroughly mapped and assessed. This is essential to develop adaptation measures, to advance regulations and to make the road infrastructure resilient.
Step 3: Develop and compare measures
The projected climate changes represent a challenge for the safety and operability of roads, tunnels, bridges and other infrastructure works. Especially the long useful lives of the structures necessitate to consider future climate changes in planning and building today. This also guarantees that financial resources are used efficiently and traffic safety can be ensured at a high level. In the future, integrating issues around climate adaptation into the maintenance and operation of the road infrastructure will gain in importance.
In 2008, the federal government identified in the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (DAS) the transport sector (including: road infrastructure) as a key issue for adapting to climate change. As important starting points for the adjustment the federal governments lists the dimensioning of the drainage infrastructure so it can withstand heavy rainfall, as well as the risk from heat for road surfaces which can be customised through the use of new and modified materials.
- 2011–2040 (near future)
- 2021–2050 (near future)
- 2051–2080 (far future)
- 2071–2100 (far future)
Step 4: Plan and implement measures
In order to meet future challenges, the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) has developed a roadmap for the adaptation of road infrastructure to climate change. The main objective of the roadmap is to 'climate-proof' all main connections until 2030 - through the implementation of adaptation measures and to amend the relevant technical regulations. The first milestone on the way to a customised and resilient road infrastructure is the research program AdSVIS.
Federal ministry of transport and digital infrastructure (BMVI): Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt)
Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt)