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Climate change is shortening the lifespan of this country's roads

climate change roads
Posted at 1:39 PM, Jan 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-10 14:51:14-05

America has more than four million miles of roadways, but every inch of pavement is in danger due to the dramatic impacts of climate change across the country.

Jo Sias studies civil and environmental engineering at the University of New Hampshire. Sias and her team have spent the last few years looking at how climate change is impacting the integrity of our country’s roads.

"Increases in temperatures are impacting roadways and infrastructure in general," she said.

Severe, more extreme weather events are causing roads to crack and crumble more frequently, shortening the life span of many roads.

"As roadways are exposed to these conditions, they won’t last as long. You’ll need to get out more frequently. They’ll be more construction delays and the cost of doing that is exponential," Sias added.

Sias and her team are now partnering with NOAA to better understand how cities and towns in all corners of the country can build roads more resilient to climate change. Many public works planners are relying on old data when it comes to choosing road material, which doesn't last as long given the changing state of the climate.

"The longer-term designs are based on data from past weather records wasn’t accurate, so they aren’t designed for what they’re actually seeing," she said about the project.

Maintaining highways and side streets across the country comes at a cost. The U.S. would need about $231 billion over the next six years to maintain and repair all of the nation’s roads. That price tag is only expected to rise as climate change worsens.

"Roads are how we get to and from places, so when there’s a disruption that, people notice," Sias noted.

The team's hope is that moving forward their work will give road builders and engineers the tools they need to keep America moving as our climate changes.