Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge: Incorporating Uncertainty and Equity into Transportation Planning for the San Juan Metropolitan

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Geronimo, Laura
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Hurricane Maria made landfall over Puerto Rico in 2017 as a category 4 hurricane with wind speeds of up to 155 miles per hour. The storm resulted in a humanitarian crisis that brought into full view many of the islands existing social, political, and economic issues. The hurricane brought storm surge of up to 9 feet in parts of the coastline, exposing the vulnerabilities of the island’s coastal communities and infrastructure. This impact highlights the urgent need to consider uncertainty related to sea level rise (SLR) and storm surge projections in future transportation planning, as well as the need to incorporate an equity perspective by considering vulnerable communities. The federal government has approved approximately $20 billion to support recovery efforts. Allocations to the transportation sector have the potential to reshape the future of Puerto Rico’s transportation systems and urban form. This applied research study explores multiple arenas that inform and influence transportation planning in this complex environment. The background and literature review synthesize the latest science on projections and uncertainty associated with SLR and storm surge and provide more context on the unique transportation challenges facing Puerto Rico. Subsequently, a desktop analysis is conducted in GIS to examine the exposure of both transportation assets and vulnerable communities to these coastal risks. The latest NOAA Lidar results are used in this analysis. In conjunction with findings from the literature review, the results of the desktop analysis inform recommendations for improving collaboration and consensus across jurisdictions and plans relevant to future transportation investments, with an emphasis on the effective use of federal expenditures post hurricane Maria.
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Applied Research Paper
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