Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Sustainability and Public Health

Climate Resilience

Climate change will impact the way we build, operate and maintain transportation infrastructure. MnDOT is working to better understand our statewide vulnerabilities to climate change and the most effective response to related threats and stresses.

image of extreme flooding along a Minnesota roadway

Photo above: Hwy 210 is washed out near Jay Cooke State Park. Minnesota is experiencing a growing number of mega-rain events. While the state experienced three mega-rain events between 1973 and 1999, seven mega-rain events occurred in the last 17 years (2000-2016).

Statewide Extreme Flood Vulnerability Analysis

MnDOT’s existing and future assets will become increasingly stressed by extreme weather patterns due to climate change. Minnesota’s assets are particularly vulnerable to projected precipitation increases and larger and more frequent extreme storm events.

The agency is currently developing a process for evaluating future flood risk to MnDOT bridges, large culverts, and pipes. Studying the performance of infrastructure under predicted extreme events will help MnDOT assess the impacts of climate change to plan, design, build, and maintain assets for resilience.

The Extreme Flood Vulnerability Analysis is estimated to be complete in early 2021, and builds off the Flash Flood Vulnerability and Adaption Assessment Pilot Project (2014) (additional details below).

Ongoing Climate Research

Research Underway

Planned Research

Completed Research and Pilots

Assessing Culverts in Minnesota: Fish Passage and Storm Vulnerability

Investigates the parameters of culvert design through a modeling study that integrates fish swimming ability for Minnesota fish species with current and future hydrologic scenarios.

Pooled Fund 1507 Flood-frequency analysis in the Midwest: Addressing potential nonstationary annual peak-flow records

The overall goal of this study by USGS is to evaluate the combined effects of multi-decadal climatic persistence (including hydroclimatic shifts), gradual climate change, and land-use change on peak-flow frequency analyses in the multi-state region in the Midwest.

NCHRP 15-61 Applying Climate Change Information to Hydrologic and Hydraulic Design of Transportation Infrastructure

The objective of this research was to develop a design guide of national scope to provide hydraulic engineers with the tools needed to amend practice to account for climate change.

MnDOT Extreme Flood Vulnerability Analysis

The Extreme Flood Vulnerability Analysis project will develop a methodology to characterize the vulnerability of MnDOT bridges, large culverts, and pipes to flooding. This effort will build upon the Flash Flood Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment Pilot Project (description below). This project will also explore how the outputs of the analysis can be used in enhancing agency resilience, such as incorporating into the state’s asset management systems.

MnDOT Research Climate Change Adaptation of Urban Stormwater Infrastructure

The study will model capacities required for the infrastructure to convey peak flows from projected mid-21st century climate-changed precipitation and population growth, and the potential for green stormwater infrastructure methods to provide more economical and effective management of peak flows than drainage system upsizing.

MnDOT Flash Flood Vulnerability and Adaption Assessment Pilot Project (2014)

This project, supported by FHWA, coordinated vulnerability assessments to measure the sensitivity of Minnesota’s trunk highway systems from flash flood events in District 1 and District 6. The project included a systems-level vulnerability assessment in each district and focused analysis of adaptions options at specific high-risk facilities identified in the system-level assessment. A benefit-cost calculation will be included in the analysis of adaption options.

Peer Exchanges

MnDOT is participating in several DOT peer exchanges that help advance resiliency efforts. Notable ones include the Urban Stormwater Management peer exchange and the Resilient Corridor Assessment peer exchange.

NCHRP 15-61A Applying Climate Change Information to Hydrologic and Hydraulic Design of Transportation Infrastructure

Additional work will be continuing on NCHRP 15-61.

Slope Vulnerability

MnDOT is analyzing slope vulnerability throughout the state and has developed a Slope Stabilization Guide for Minnesota Local Government Engineer. The final phase of the statewide slope vulnerability assessment is planned to be completed this year (2020).

NCHRP 20-44(23) Pilot Test of Climate Change Design Practices Guide for Hydrology and Hydraulics

Test the guide produced in NCHRP 15-61 to get direct feedback from the practitioners that would use the guide to identify gaps and needs for improvement. Results will be used in NCHRP 15-61A.

  Are Warming Winters in Minnesota Changing Freeze Thaw Cycles

This project will analyze how freeze/thaw cycles have changed in MN historically, how air, surface, and sub-surface freeze/thaw cycles are correlated, and how they may be impacted by climate change.



Additional Resources