Maryland State Highway Administration Climate Change Adaptation Plan with Detailed Vulnerability Assessment

Maryland’s State Highway Administration (SHA) carried out a vulnerability assessment to inform future policy and engineering approaches to manage climate induced risks. The vulnerability assessment focused on two Maryland counties, Anne Arundel and Somerset, as part of a larger pilot project funded by the Federal Highway Administration. The report aims to improve the SHA’s understanding of climate vulnerability and allow for the development, assessment, and implementation of strategies to protect transportation assets. As a pilot, the study is intended to serve as an example for other state Departments of Transportation and lead to an improved response to climate change impacts across jurisdictions.

Both counties in the assessment are coastal, and are already taking action to address sea level rise impacts. Anne Arundel County released its Sea Level Rise Strategic Plan in 2011 and Somerset’s Rising Sea Level Guidance was published in 2008. The pilot builds off of those documents through the use of “Individual Asset Score Reports” and other methods to prioritize county-level adaptive efforts. Assets, including roads, bridges, and culverts were scored based on a number of factors including asset sensitivity, exposure to risk, and adaptive capacity. Exposure scores were formulated through the use of a variable which indicated whether or not the asset was located in a 100-year flood zone, likely change in annual precipitation, and the asset’s vertical clearance. Sensitivity was determined in part by historical flooding, the age of the asset, and its proximity to the coast. Finally, adaptive capacity takes both exposure and sensitivity scores into account, while also considering the length or distance of potential detours and whether or not the asset would be needed during an evacuations.

These scores, in conjunction with vulnerability assessments, were used to prioritize assets that require attention and adaptive measures. SHA employee’s experiences and expertise were also sought out and considered in the prioritization of adaptive efforts, which allowed for incorporation of local knowledge that might have otherwise been missed.

In addition to assessing the vulnerability of the state’s roads, bridges, and culverts to climate stressors and developing appropriate adaptive strategies, the document also calls for enhanced communication between policy makers and planners. The report also recommends a comprehensive review of existing policies related to land use and further exploration of options related to “disinvestment, relocation, and retreat.”


Publication Date: October 11, 2014

Related Organizations:

  • Maryland State Highway Administration


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Adaptation plan
  • Assessment

States Affected:

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