Adaptation Planning to Mitigate Coastal-Road Pavement Damage from Groundwater Rise Caused by Sea-Level Rise

Academic Article


  • Sea level in coastal New England is projected to rise 3.9–6.6 ft (1.2–2.0 m) by the year 2100. Many climate-change vulnerability and adaptation studies have investigated surface-water flooding from sea-level rise (SLR) on coastal-road infrastructure, but few have focused on rising groundwater. Groundwater modeling in New Hampshire’s Seacoast Region has shown that SLR-induced groundwater rise will occur three to four times farther inland than surface-water flooding, potentially impacting 23% of the region’s roads. Pavement service-life has been shown to decrease when the unbound layers become saturated. In areas where groundwater is projected to rise with SLR, pavements with groundwater 5.0 ft (1.5 m) deep or less are at risk of premature failure as groundwater moves into the pavement’s underlying unbound layers. In this study, groundwater hydrology and multi-layer elastic pavement analysis were used to identify two case-study sites in coastal New Hampshire that are predicted to experience pavement service-life reduction caused by SLR-induced groundwater rise. Various pavement structures were evaluated to determine adaptation feasibility and costs to maintain the designed service-life in the face of rising groundwater. This investigation shows that relatively simple pavement structural modifications to the base and asphalt concrete (AC) layers of a regional corridor can eliminate the 80% to 90% service-life reduction projected with 1.0 ft SLR (year 2030) and will delay pavement inundation by 20 years. Pavements with adequate base-layer materials and thickness require only AC thickness modification to avoid premature pavement failure from SLR-induced groundwater rise.
  • Authors

  • Knott, Jayne F
  • Sias, Jo
  • Jacobs, Jennifer
  • Kirshen, Paul
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • December 2018
  • Has Subject Area

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 11
  • End Page

  • 22
  • Volume

  • 2672
  • Issue

  • 2