Photo by Kelly Sikkema

By Danielle Lachance

Although some in Florida have been wary to recognize climate change, many have recently begun to seriously evaluate the threat of overall sea rise on the state’s transit network. This network is vital to the state’s economy, and the risk of damage is increasing rapidly.

A study from the Department of Transportation in 2018 showed that the two-foot sea rise that the state expects by the middle of the century will put over 5% of the state’s highways at risk, along with several billion dollars.

A Category 5 hurricane will put one-fifth of the highway transit system at risk of flooding, and the state is only beginning to examine the risk to airports and railroads. The Everglades once covered nearly 11,000 square miles of South Florida. Now, there’s additional infrastructure, along with the nature preserves, to take into account each time the water rises. Roads, buildings, and more are all dramatically affected.

Government leadership is beginning to acknowledge the risk, but many question whether the state got too late of a start, as well as if authorities can move quickly enough to keep up with the rate the water is rising.

Rising Sea Levels Have a Dramatic Impact

Florida is experiencing a dramatic threat of flooding due to rising sea levels, as well as an elevated number of hurricanes each year for the last several years. The state has just begun to truly examine how climate change will impact the numerous thousands of miles of highways it contains. The University of Florida developed a tool that allows lawmakers to see various levels of sea rise superimposed onto the state road system.

Of the 2.6 million miles of paved roads in the United States, more than 94% of these have been surfaced with asphalt. Asphalt roads in Florida stand to be damaged by rising sea levels.

Moving Forward to Protect Assets

State agencies say that they’re sure they can address the issues at hand without dramatically disrupting business or travel in the upcoming years. However, they’re still struggling with the answers to specific questions, like what will it cost to adapt the roads as well as to protect higher value centers like airports and seaports.

The state estimates that 5% of all the roadways may be at risk, with a coastal section of Broward County most in danger. Homes, businesses, and nature reserves are also at a huge risk. Millennials make up the biggest percentage of homeowners at 45%. They stand to lose numerous assets if the area’s roadways and homes are damaged in a large storm or by ever-rising seas.

The Price of Rising Seas

Despite the challenges and estimated huge price tag, Florida’s leaders are confident that they can work to adapt thousands of miles of roads to prepare them for ever-rising seas.

However, the most daunting component of this process may be the cost itself. The most accurate estimates come from places that have already begun to raise the roads in order to keep them dry, and these estimates are high. Officials also need to determine how high they’ll need to build the road in order to keep everyone as safe as possible. This, of course, depends on the amount they expect the sea to rise.

Many organizations have different estimates of when the water will rise, as well as how much it will rise. Lower estimates call for lower roads, as well as less money to raise the roads. However, they could be incorrect and wind up with the road being flooded over in the long run.

It’s clear, however, that something must be done and that tough decisions must be made. The height of future roads, how much they cost, and spending state money correctly will help determine how to keep state residents safe for the long run.

1 COMMENT

  1. I have been on the Gulf Coast for over 80 years and this threat has existed for most of those 80 years, now the facts, if there has been any change in water levels, it is not noticeable in day to day operations. What is changinhg is the loss of small land masses, islands, banks, etc. mostly the results of dead sea life(shell cover) and dead vegetation.

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