Partnership Allows Access to Water Data for Bridge, Road Renovations

Wed July 15, 2020 - West Edition #15

A partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey's Arizona Water Science Center is helping Arizona Department of Transportation engineers anticipate the effects of extreme weather on bridges and highways and design ways to handle it.

Since its start in 2014, this collaboration has evolved to improve ADOT's use data involving flooding, natural hazards and weather-related risks through the agency's Resilience Program.

"With U.S. Geological Survey's expertise in water science and hydrology, ADOT can now use these data to construct and maintain bridges and roadways that better reflects how the natural environment and highway infrastructure interact," said Steven Olmsted, program manager with ADOT environmental planning. "These data have already made a difference on numerous ADOT projects."

An example of this partnership is 2017 improvements to U.S. 160 bridge spanning Laguna Creek on the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona. The project, which won an award from Arizona State University's Metis Center for Infrastructure and Sustainable Engineering, used data on the volume and velocity of the creek's flow to anticipate how the channel will change.

The resulting project protected the bridge's abutments by using gabion baskets, which are metal cages filled with rocks, to reduce meandering where the creek passes under U.S. 160.

According to USGS Arizona Water Science Center hydrologist Brandon Forbes, "this partnership has also established a successful framework for collaboration between USGS and State DOTs, and is being adopted by many other USGS offices across the country."

ADOT's goal is to develop an end-to-end engineering-based process that will incorporate extreme weather and climate adaptation into the design of highway and bridge projects.

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