Caltrans Completes Statewide Climate Assessment to Adapt Transportation System
In an ongoing effort to identify the potential climate change vulnerabilities of the California State Highway System, Caltrans has completed the last two of 12 district-based Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment Reports that examine the potential climate impacts to each district’s portion of the highway system. Understanding these impacts helps Caltrans assess physical climate risk to the transportation system and work towards adapting infrastructure to be more resilient to these impacts.
With the completion of the final two reports, the department now has a comprehensive statewide database that will help in evaluating, mitigating, and adapting to the effects of increasing extreme weather events on the state transportation system.
The final reports cover Caltrans’ coastal districts 1 (Eureka) and 5 (Santa Barbara/San Luis Obispo). Climate effects examined include rising average temperatures, higher sea levels, storm surge, and precipitation, which increase the incidence of flooding, coastal erosion, mudslides, drought and wildfires.
Caltrans is sharing the reports, technical data and online interactive maps with local, regional, state and federal agencies — with the goal of these agencies using and analyzing the data to achieve a more resilient transportation system in their respective regions.
“The completed assessments cover all 58 counties in the state and give California a comprehensive evaluation of climate change effects on the State Highway system. We are now integrating the findings into our planning process to better protect California’s citizens, economy and transportation investments,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin.
The vulnerability reports project that by the year 2085:
- Sea levels will rise 5.5 feet along the California coast—affecting 130 miles of State Highway by accelerating soil erosion and cliff retreat.
- Increased severity and frequency of wildfires could threaten more than 7,000 miles of state highway.
- High temperatures on the central coast and in the northwest part of the state could rise by 6 to 12 degrees, increasing drought and wildfire potential.