Three Ways We are Working to Protect BC Highways from Climate Change

BC climate change protection
It’s no secret. Extreme weather is on the rise as a result of global climate change.

What impacts will climate change have on our transportation infrastructure? Expect an increase in dramatic weather events like: coastal storm surges, extreme precipitation events and an increase in higher than normal temperatures.

Across BC, there are thousands of bridges allowing motorists to travel over our many lakes, rivers and streams. Our roadways also have countless culverts to pass water safely and prevent flood damage and erosion. When unexpected weather events happen, we can be dealing with more water than normal in a short period of time and this can present serious issues for bridges, roads and culverts that may not have enough capacity for these changed conditions. As a part of BC’s Climate Adaptation Strategy, we’re working with other key players to understand exactly what climate change might mean to our infrastructure and identifying ways we can adapt in response.

Here’s how:

  1. We are analyzing and determining the vulnerabilities of our infrastructure from climate change. Since 2007, we’ve been working with climate scientists, meteorologists, hydrology specialists, as well as transportation engineering and operations and maintenance specialists to build a protocol that will help us assess and understand our infrastructure vulnerabilities. In the last five years, a number of extreme weather events have severely impacted BC highways. For example, events in Bella Coola (2010), Stewart (2011) and Pine Pass (2011) caused major damage to our transportation infrastructure. We carefully studied all aspects of these events in order to better understand how we can prepare our infrastructure for extreme events. This included considering changes in climate from climate models and examining the physical nature of watersheds surrounding our infrastructure such as terrain and topography. We are also considering the implications from Mountain Pine Beetle infestation and forest fires, as these can clog and seriously compromise infrastructure during extreme weather events.
  2. We are identifying ways to reduce vulnerabilities. We’ve developed measures to help us adapt to climate change and are applying them to engineering design. We now require infrastructure design work to evaluate and consider any possible vulnerability associated with future climate change and extreme weather events and to include appropriate adaptation measures to account for any future events over the design life of infrastructure. This will apply to all new projects, including rehabilitation and maintenance projects. In doing so, we will continue to provide a provincial transportation system that is resilient, reliable and efficient regardless of unfolding climate change and extreme weather events.
  3. We are encouraging ongoing adaptation education for professionals, consultants, staff & students.

Adaptation is defined as “a change or the process of change by which an organism or species
becomes better suited to its environment

To make sure that our transportation infrastructure remains reliable in the face of climate change, we are taking steps to adapt BC highways, so that they can continue to connect communities across the province, whatever the weather.

Have any comments or questions? Let us know in the comments below.


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