Project Title

Infrastructure Resilience and Adaptation for Hurricanes in Coastal Areas

Collaborating Universities

University of Virginia
351 McCormick Dr.
P.O. Box 400742
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4742

Virginia Tech
1424 S Main St.
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Principal Investigator(s)

Pamela Murray-Tuite (VT) - Email:
Ihab El-Shawarby (VT) - Email:
Hesham Rakha (VT) - Email:
Brian Smith (UVA) - Email:

Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization)

USDOT: $60,830 (Federal)
VT: $35,830 (Match)
VDOT: $15,000 (Match)

Total Project Costs

$60,830 Federal/$50,830 Match

Agency ID or Contract Number


Start Date


Completion Date



Sea level rise (SLR) is expected to have a significant impact on future coastal flooding in the greater Norfolk/Hampton Roads area, where global SLR estimates are on the order of 0.3 m by the 2050s and 1 m by the end of this century.  SLR is a concern for normal transportation activities but is particularly important under evacuation conditions when part of the network may be unavailable due to storm surge.


  • To understand how SLR impacts flooding, and in turn how this flooding impacts (1) evacuation demand and performance and (2) network connectivity, capacity, and vulnerability
  • To develop and apply a resilience assessment methodology for coastal areas
  • To identify appropriate climate change adaptation strategies, evaluate their impacts on resilience and evacuation performance, and evaluate trade-offs among different strategies

Contributions and Integration:

Dr. Irish and her team provide critical inputs to the other investigators.  They will use the well-known ADCIRC hydrodynamic model to simulate surge at high resolution and accuracy for three synthetic hurricanes under three SLR scenarios: present-day, 0.3 m, and 1.0 m. The synthetic storms (track, intensity, size, etc.) will be selected to (1) represent plausible hurricane conditions in the study area and (2) produce either large localized or moderate widespread flooding in the study area. Peak surge arrival will be assumed to coincide with high spring tide (worst case). Model outputs will include time series of flood elevation and wind speed at high spatial resolution throughout the study area.

Taking flood elevations, Drs. Rakha and El-Shawarby will conduct microscopic simulation to identify the impacts on capacities of individual links.  These capacity changes will be inputs to network performance measures used in Dr. Murray-Tuite’s and Dr. Smith’s analyses.

These capacity reductions also affect the multi-day evacuation demand, which Dr. Murray-Tuite will modify based on her existing datasets.  This demand will be used by both Dr. Murray-Tuite and Dr. Rakha’s teams.  Drs. Murray-Tuite and Rakha will work together to identify appropriate evacuation models and tie their respective mesoscopic and microscopic models together to provide higher resolution modeling at critical points as well as “bigger picture” performance measures.  For example, one could evaluate a large number of scenarios using a mesoscopic approach and reduce them to a more limited number of scenarios. A microscopic approach can then be used to select the optimum strategy from this subset.

Evacuation demand will also be modified based on climate change adaptation strategies identified by Dr. Smith.  In previously completed research, Dr. Smith’s team has applied an FHWA developed conceptual model for understanding the ramifications of climate change on the transportation infrastructure.  Based on the identification and prioritization of risks, this research will investigate necessary adaptation to address high priority risks.  These adaptations will affect the future network configuration and capacity, which will provide “alternative futures” that can be evaluated in the analyses by Dr. Murray-Tuite’s and Dr. Rakha’s teams.

Conference calls among the collaborators will be held at a minimum of once per month, but greater frequency is anticipated among smaller groups of collaborators as specific integration tasks are undertaken.


Potential implementation of project outcomes

  • Guidance on adaptation strategies can be used by DOTs and planning agencies
  • Methods can be transferred to other areas

Dr. Murray-Tuite will also lead the development of vulnerability and resilience analysis methods with significant collaboration from Drs. Irish, Rakha, El-Shawarby, and Smith as well as the PIs of competitive research projects under this general topic.


Expected benefits and impacts

Many of the benefits listed below could result in better evacuation plans, which help mitigate the risk to human lives during hurricanes.

  • Improved understanding of the effects of sea level rise and storm surge on network availability during hurricane scenarios
  • Understanding of how sea level rise and storm surge will affect hurricane evacuations
  • Methods to assess resilience
  • Understanding of potential adaptation strategies and their impacts on resilience, network vulnerability, and evacuation metrics
  • Understanding of the trade-offs among climate change adaptation strategies

Webinars will be held where each group spends about 30 minutes on research progress and findings.  DOT representatives will be invited and the webinars will be recorded for later viewing.

Web Links to Reports and to the Project website