RD108 - Virginia Transportation Planning For Sea Level Rise – January 15, 2022

Executive Summary:

This Report is offered in response to Item 446 (F) of Chapter 552 of the 2021 Special Session I Acts of Assembly, which directed the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), with the assistance of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), to provide “an annual update on the status of the Coastal Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Inundation Study." VDOT entered into an agreement with VIMS in 2019 for a study to develop a strategy for understanding and addressing sea level rise, land subsidence, and recurrent flooding impacts on road infrastructure. In accordance with the agreement and pursuant to Item 446 (F), this report has been developed, is current through December 1, 2021, and provides/summarizes VIMS' progress pursuant to its scope of work for its study/project on "Developing a Strategy for Understanding and Addressing Sea Level Rise, Land Subsidence and Recurrent Flooding Impacts on Road Infrastructure" as requested by VDOT’s Virginia Transportation Research Council from the Center for Coastal Resources Management.

This project represents a partnership between VIMS and VDOT to develop a proactive strategy for understanding and addressing sea level rise, land subsidence and recurrent flooding impacts on existing and planned road infrastructure and to assess how that infrastructure will impact natural ecosystems in Virginia’s coastal zone as the climate changes. Virginia’s coastal zone is defined in the Code of Virginia as “Tidewater Virginia" and includes 44 localities: the Counties of Accomack, Arlington, Caroline, Charles City, Chesterfield, Essex, Fairfax, Gloucester, Hanover, Henrico, Isle of Wight, James City, King and Queen, King George, King William, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, New Kent, Northampton, Northumberland, Prince George, Prince William, Richmond, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Surry, Westmoreland, and York, and the Cities of Alexandria, Chesapeake, Colonial Heights, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Hampton, Hopewell, Newport News, Norfolk, Petersburg, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Richmond, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg. Certain elements under this project were subsequently expanded to include remaining areas of Northern Virginia Planning District 8 (Loudon County, City of Manassas, and Manassas Park).

The project incorporates three fundamental elements that any major public service agency must address when considering climate change impacts: science, management and policy. Over five years, the project partners will coordinate a series of products that can be loosely divided into two major areas of focus: 1) climate adaptation of transportation infrastructure and 2) ecosystem impacts of transportation infrastructure.

Three key tasks with the following outcomes are contemplated: Task 1 is to develop a tool to identify management strategies for transportation infrastructure subject to current or future flooding by tidal waters between 2020 and 2080. The outcome of Task 2 is to forecast impacts and mitigation options for transportation infrastructure interaction with coastal ecosystems. There is also a Task 3, Legal and Policy Analysis, to identify policy and regulatory issues implicated in developing one or more strategies to address sea level rise, land subsidence and recurrent flooding impacts on existing and planned road infrastructure, as well as how that infrastructure will impact natural ecosystems in Virginia's coastal zone as the climate changes.

To ensure the goals and objectives of VDOT are met, three workgroups representing VDOT’s technical, environmental, and policy professionals, respectively, will be formed. To ensure the interests of the larger stakeholder communities are considered, a stakeholder committee comprised of select members from local governments, state agencies, and regional planning organizations will be organized.

This interim report summarizes cumulative progress and any significant findings between Dec 2020 and Dec 2021 and is organized into four major sections: General Project, Task 1, Task 2, and Task 3. Unless otherwise indicated, the data and information set forth in this report is not final and is subject to future update and/or revision.