Elevate roads and bridges above flood level

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Elevating roads prevents flooding from blocking escape routes. Elevated bridges prevent the disruption of drainage patterns.

About elevated roads and bridges 

In order to maintain dry access to roads and bridges during flood events, local governments may choose to elevate this infrastructure above a certain flood level. Low-lying roads are at risk of flooding which blocks possible escape routes. Bridges can impede the flow of water causing the water to back up and flood surrounding areas. Road crossings should have sufficient bridge openings and adequate culvert capacity so that roads do not disrupt drainage patterns.  Roadways drainage systems must be updated accordingly when they are elevated. Local entities have to be sure that roads are graded accordingly and that the system is upgraded accordingly. It is also important to routinely maintain roadways and waterways because debris can build up along bridges which adversely affects water flow and can lead to damage of surrounding structures and roadways.


Road raising project to combat flooding in Miami Beach, Florida

Get above base flood elevation

Authorities typically try to raise roadways and bridges above the local base flood elevation (BFE). The base flood elevation (BFE) determines the height that equipment should be raised above. A property’s BFE can be found by searching for one’s local county FEMA flood insurance rating map (FIRM). Construction, reconstruction, and repair of roads and bridges should take drainage and elevation into account but also stabilization and armoring of vulnerable road shoulders and embankments.

An example of one city that is raising roads to combat flooding in Miami Beach in Florida. Miami Beach is raising its roads by two feet at a cost of roughly $2 million per block. Raising roads above sea level can help drain water and reduce tidal flooding. In order to make sure that higher roads don’t channel flood water to homes and stores at lower elevations, cities often use stormwater pumps to remove this excess water. Miami Beach’s $400 million project intends to install 80 pump stations throughout the city along with raising streets. The project specifically targets roads on Miami Beach’s low-lying western edge to be rebuilt higher above sea level and future sea level rise.

Without free access to accurate flood information, more Americans will unknowingly be at risk from the nation’s costliest natural disaster. Risk Factor makes flood risk data freely available for all, individuals and communities can prepare for and mitigate risks before they become a reality. 

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