The U.S. road network is one of the nation’s most important capital assets and is vital to the functioning of the U.S. economy. Maintaining this asset involves approximately $134 billion of government funds annually from Federal, State, and local agencies. Climate change may represent a risk or an opportunity to this network, as changes in climate stress will affect the resources necessary for both road maintenance and construction projects. This paper develops an approach for estimating climate-related changes in road maintenance and construction costs such that the current level of service provided by roads is maintained over time. We estimate these costs under a baseline scenario in which annual mean global temperature increases by 1.5 8C in 2050 relative to the historical average and a mitigation scenario under which this increase in mean temperature is limited to 1.0 8C. Depending on the nature of the changes in climate that occur in a given area, our analysis suggests that climate change may lead to a reduction in road maintenance and/or construction costs or an increase in costs. Overall, however, our analysis shows that climate change, if unchecked, will increase the annual costs of keeping paved and unpaved roads in service by $785 million in present value terms by 2050. When not discounted, this figure increases to $2.8 billion. Policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to reduce these costs by approximately $280 million in present value terms and by $885 million when not discounted. These costs vary substantially by region and time period, information that should be important for transportation planners at the national, state, and local levels.

Author names: 
Chinowsky, Paul S.
Price, Jason C.
Neumann, James E.

Chinowsky, Paul S.; Price, Jason C.; Neumann, James E. (2013): Assessment of climate change adaptation costs for the U.S. road network. In: Global Environmental Change 23 (2013) 764–773

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