Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil, Environmental & Architectural Engineering

First Advisor

Paul S. Chinowsky

Second Advisor

Amy Javernick-Will

Third Advisor

Michael Meyer

Fourth Advisor

Keith Molenaar

Fifth Advisor

Irina Stipanovic Oslakovic


Climate change and extreme weather threaten to reduce the effectiveness and increase the cost of transportation infrastructure in the immediate and long-term future. Despite research that describes the imminent impacts of climate change and policy recommendations to adapt to those impacts, adaptation remains limited in practice. Therefore, this dissertation research is guided by two broad questions: 1) what are the long-term impacts of climate change on transportation infrastructure? and 2) why are transportation organizations not adapting to climate change? Climate change adaptation research has focused primarily on more obvious and sudden impacts from extreme events and more predictable changes in sea-level rise and storm surge. Research has also primarily produced results at a macro economy scale or detailed engineering design scale. While a large portion of research also includes the impacts of temperature and precipitation changes, it is often qualitative or quasi-quantitative and tends to focus on events like flooding or heat waves. Less attention has been paid to quantifying the more uncertain, gradual, and chronic impacts from long-term changes in climate, even though those changes pose a similar, if not greater, risk to infrastructure. Through quantifying the impacts on road networks of gradual changes in temperature, precipitation, and freeze-thaw, a goal of this research is to create and improve the tools, and more importantly the knowledge, that transportation managers need to successfully plan, design, build, and manage infrastructure for long-term effectiveness and resilience. Chapter 3 of this dissertation quantifies the long-term changes in temperature and precipitation on a road network using a stressor-response adaptation model. The model is based on two adaptation strategies, a proactive “climate-proofing” approach which modifies design and construction of roads prior to predicted climate change, and a reactive approach which repairs the increased damage caused by climate change to maintain the original lifespan of the road. The cost of each strategy is calculated and compared annually through 2100. The data collection and modeling are performed at the organization and network level, to increase the relevance to and implementation by transportation organizations. The Netherlands is used as a case study and the costs of adapting to changes in temperature and precipitation are predicted to range from €0-150 million annually. Proactive adaptation is typically predicted to cost less than a reactive approach. Chapter 4 investigates an even less understood climate stressor, freeze-thaw. A new methodology is developed and incorporated into the adaptation model to quantify the long-term impacts of changes in freeze-thaw cycles. This modeling is also performed using the Dutch road network as a case study. Adaptation costs for freeze-thaw are forecast to range from €0-5 million annually. Unlike temperature and precipitation, freeze-thaw changes will reach a time, approximately 2055, when reactive maintenance is anticipated to cost less than proactively climate-proofing roads.

The work in Chapters 3 and 4 contributes practically to the Dutch transportation agency and fills a knowledge gap by providing a method for other agencies. The work also quantitatively shows that climate change adaptation is a long-term and persistent problem that requires ongoing attention from transportation organizations. This leads into the work in Chapter 5, which investigates the question of why transportation organizations are not implementing climate change adaptation, despite being aware and, in some cases, well-informed of it. This research theorizes that implementation is limited because climate change adaptation is not a singular process or outcome, as much of the current research suggests, but it is a holistic system of many ongoing organizational processes and elements. Chapter 5 uses a systematic literature review to ident