VE-I-5: Impacts on roads from extraordinary weather events – case study

The picture shows the legs of a road construction worker who is repairing a piece of road with fresh asphalt.Click to enlarge
Weather-related damage to roads must be remedied by highway maintenance services.
Source: Photograph: © peuceta / stock.adobe.com

2019 Monitoring Report on the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change

Table of Contents

 

VE-I-5 : Impacts on roads from extraordinary weather events and disasters – case study

Highway maintenance services in Rhineland-Palatinate were extraordinarily busy in 2007, 2010 and 2016. In 2007 and 2010, it was above all windthrow and consequential damage by hurricanes Cyril and/or Xynthia which had to be remedied. In 2016, it was the impacts of tempests and heavy rain that kept the highway maintenance services exceptionally busy.

The column chart shows from 2007 to 2017 the working time expenditure due to weather extremes and disaster cases in hours. There is no trend. With almost 53,000 hours, 2010 was the most labour-intensive, and with 18,700 hours, 2009 was the least.
VE-I-5 : Impacts on roads from extraordinary weather events and disasters – case study

The column chart shows from 2007 to 2017 the working time expenditure due to weather extremes and disaster cases in hours. There is no trend. With almost 53,000 hours, 2010 was the most labour-intensive, and with 18,700 hours, 2009 was the least.

Source: Landesbetrieb Mobilität Rheinland-Pfalz
 

Storms and heavy rain – busy times for highway maintenance

The early summer 2016 created a lot of work for Rhineland- Palatinate’s Highway Maintenance services. In late May and early June, the low-pressure systems Elvira, Friederike and Gisela – summarised as the Central European low-pressure system – brought tempests and thunderstorms combined with heavy rainfall which triggered localised flash floods and produced record high-water levels. This phenomenon occurred again in late June. These events caused flooding which culminated in washing away cars, undermining roads and damaging additional infrastructures such as rainwater retention basins.

The total extent of damage to roads and infrastructure often does not reveal itself until a tempest has passed or the high-water level has receded. It is up to Highway Maintenance to repair such damage. Major restoration work on buildings or embankments is usually entrusted to private companies. Minor repairs and cleansing jobs are carried out by highway maintenance services. Highway maintenance work is carried out by employees of motorway and road maintenance depots. They make sure that the road network is safe and functioning. All measures required to ensure adequate control, servicing and maintenance of Germany’s roads are implemented under the premise that the smooth flow of traffic is affected as little as possible.

The new version of a specification detailing the requirements for work to be carried out by highway maintenance services on federal trunk roads (Leistungsheft für den Straßenbetriebsdienst auf Bundesfernstraßen) is about to be published. This publication specifies the work to be undertaken by Highway Maintenance during and after storms and hurricanes, high water levels, flooding after heavy rain as well as other disaster-related events. According to item 6.1.3 entitled ‘Measures to be taken in cases of extraordinary weather events or disasters’ (Maßnahmen bei außergewöhnlichen Witterungsereignissen und Katastrophenfällen), it is the remit of Highway Maintenance to remedy without delay any road damage which might affect road safety. Highway Maintenance is also required to remove any obstacles from roads, such as tree branches or limbs, and to remove any detritus or pollution, to restore any damaged roadsigns or markings, to restore road banks and to clear ditches. Where specific road sections are impassable, Highway Maintenance will handle traffic control using appropriate signage and barriers or cordons.

The time series shows the amount of work expended on services rendered within the remit of the Rhineland- Palatinate Office for Mobility (Landesbetrieb Mobilität Rheinland-Pfalz). With the exception of 2016, the amount of time expended on dealing with extraordinary weather events and disaster-related cases was particularly high in the years 2007 and 2010. In those years Rhineland-Palatinate and other parts of Germany and Europe were stricken by hurricanes Cyril and/or Xynthia. In forested areas, a great number of trees were uprooted and branches were ripped off. This resulted in obstructions and damage to roads which had to be remedied by Highway Maintenance. The labour involved caused a distinct amount of additional time expenditure.

It is feasible to create an indicator for Rhineland-Palatinate because this Land has kept records since 2007 on the amount of time expended on remedial work required as a result of tempests and flood damage. These records include the work carried out in connection with road closures, cleansing operations and operations management.

The introduction of an enhanced specification for all federal Länder or Germany nationwide, will make it possible in future to make comparable statements on time expenditure incurred by highway maintenance services as a result of extraordinary weather events and disaster-related impacts. To that end, the Federal-Länder Working Group BEKORS (Calculation of operating costs of highway maintenance services/Betriebskostenrechnung im Straßenbetriebsdienst) has revised and enhanced the relevant specification to incorporate the collation of data on time expenditure in a homogeneous and comparable manner. For this purpose, the services rendered were described in detail including a clarification stating that the time expended under item 6.1.3 ‘Measures to be taken in cases of extraordinary weather events or disasters’ is to be attributed not only to initial but also to follow-up measures.

On this basis, the scope of this indicator can be expanded to apply to the whole of Germany in future. This will make it possible to observe whether the labour expended on highway maintenance is increasing because Germany as a whole is experiencing a greater amount of road damage and obstructions as a result of extreme weather events. This is one of the crucial impacts which is expected to materialise in the transport sector as a result of progressive climate change.

 

Interfaces

VE-I-3: Heavy rain and roads