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Coastal roads flooding far more frequently in the eastern U.S.

A new study has found that high tides are flooding roadways much more frequently along the eastern coast of the United States. Researchers are reporting that coastal roads in this region have experienced a 90 percent increase in flooding over the last 20 years.

Study co-author Jennifer Jacobs is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of New Hampshire.

“This could be just the beginning of impact on these areas,” said Jacobs. “With the continued rise in sea levels, nuisance-flood frequency is projected to grow and the effect on the physical roads and the people that live along the coastline is concerning.”

According to the study, high tide floods threaten over 7,500 miles of roadways along the entire East Coast, including over 400 miles of interstate. The researchers have estimated that this flooding causes drivers over 100 million hours of delays each year. By 2100, that number is expected to rise to over 3.4 billion hours.

The study also revealed that high tide flooding could occur almost daily at certain sites along the coast of New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, North Carolina, Florida and the District of Columbia by the middle of this century. This trajectory is based on intermediate levels of sea rise.

“As tidal coastal flooding increases in the coming years, there will also be issues with the transportation infrastructure,” said Jacobs. “We’ve already seen billions of dollars in damage to coastal roadways from recent hurricanes. In the future, with rising sea levels, we expect to see more frequent issues, more damage, and impact to roadways even farther inland.”

The researchers pointed out that critical transportation infrastructure is at risk from sea level rise alone, which is projected to swell up somewhere between one and eight feet along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the United States.

The study is published in the journal Transportation Research Record.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: Melissa Paly

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