Raising Amtrak routes above future sea level

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George Harris

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It was not my intent to disparage anybody, but merely to say, hey look a little deeper before concluding this to be a major problem in need of short term mitigation. There are many crying needs out there where short term money would better be spent. From the picture, there are obviously some areas where near term solutions are advisable, but in the case shown, a 12 inch ballast raise would probably solve things for a long time to come. When we look at coastal cities, New Orleans is a prime example of some things that can be done. You can bet when the city was first settled it was NOT five feet below sea level as it is now. It has settled over the years due to underconsolidated ground. Levees have been built, large capacity pumps installed. Recent flooding was due to failure to consider some of the possibilities that should have been considered. When, and it should be when and not if, some of the decrepit fixtures in the Northeast Corridor are rebuilt, better protection from flooding should be part of it, Potential seal level rise should be considered as part of that redesign, but only part of it.
 
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The issue is that sea level rises won't be equal everywhere - some places will have less and others more (don't ask me to explain the geophysics of it all). I don't think there's anywhere on Amtrak where there will be rebound (such as we'll see in Greenland and have been seeing since the ice age in Scandinavia - it's why some ports there are now inland). I think that the NEC in CT and that area, along with some of the west coast routes are the places where, from an Amtrak perspective, focus needs to be placed.
 

Tlcooper93

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Climate resilience construction is a good thing, regardless of whether sea levels are rising or not...

The NYC subway flooded already... The tunnels below the Hudson are vulnerable already... bridges are in danger already. People died and will continue dying unless changes are made.

Spending money on measures to protect vital infrastructure is a good thing whether or not you agree with rising waters due to climate change.
 

George Harris

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Climate resilience construction is a good thing, regardless of whether sea levels are rising or not...

The NYC subway flooded already... The tunnels below the Hudson are vulnerable already... bridges are in danger already. People died and will continue dying unless changes are made.

Spending money on measures to protect vital infrastructure is a good thing whether or not you agree with rising waters due to climate change.
Reality is most engineers are not as dumb as we may look. There is a list of standards to be considered in designing for water flow and flooding. Usually they are expressed in year intervals of likely occurrence. Like 10, 25, 50, 100 year interval. Usually you don't go beyond 100 because reality is that you don't have enough money to do everything. Reality is that designing for a 100 year storm does not mean that it will only occur once in 100 years. It means that every year you have a 1% change of having a storm of that intensity. As an example, quite a few years ago, in the 70's I think, Richmond VA had a 100+ year flood 6 times in 10 years. They have not had any that has gotten anywhere close since. Generally subdivision and other street inlets and storm sewers are designed for 25 year floods, BUT it is also a requirement that overflows not impact buildings. Never done that sort of thing, so I cannot say what that overflow design return period is. Generally for major highways it is 50 or 100, but again, that is nominal ditch and culvert and bridge capacity. It does not mean if you exceed it the world ends.

During the period I was in Taiwan the Taiwan Railway had been placed below ground and the first portion of the Mass Rapid Transit system completed. The downtown MRT station on the Red line was below the TRA station. The city / national government was well on its way to completing a set of 500 year storm walls and levees around the city. All that was left was a relatively short section of levees designed to hold back the design 200+ year river flow. And Then:!! We had Typhoon Nari. While most Pacific Typhoons follow a relatively predictable path, this one did not. It made landfall and then stalled. The area covered by the typhoon was almost identical to that of the Keelung River basin which is the river flowing by Taipei city. We had three days of hard rain falling on the entire river basin. The 500 year walls and levees had water quite a ways up them, but were not near to being overtopped. However, the 200 year levees were overtopped. As a result we had 3 to 5 feet of water in many streets and water into the TRA and MRT tunnels. There was a picture taken from the top of one of the escalators to the railway platform that showed about 5 feet of water over the platform, and obviously more over the track. What that really meant was that the MRT station was full to the ceiling. Although there was quite a bit of political uproar, it was ultimately recognized that you cannot protect everything against everything. However, the remaining system of levees to 500 year flooding was completed post haste.

Back to the subject at hand, yes, anything new should be based on the possibility of a two foot seal level rise, but I really consider that overkill. Who knows what the climatic trends will be over the next 100 years. More consideration should be given to storm surges that appears to currently be the case. That consideration should probably appease the 2 foot panic people. What I would do, is for every coastal line along the west coast any section needing rebuilding should be about 25 feet above sea level. This is not for sea level rise, but for tsunamis.
 

neroden

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Basically, what global warming has done to flood risk (the primary mechanism is sea level rise, the secondary mechanism is the intensification of hurricanes and similar storms due to more heat in the ocean and atmosphere), is to require the redesign of all the flood risk maps to raise the risks. It's not so much the threat of being permanently underwater; more that the risk of storm flooding has gone up a lot in many of these locations.

In some places, based on the new data, former 100-year floods are now 20-year floods; former 1000-year floods are now 100-year floods; all the percentages just went up. Unfortunately the work to complete updating the flood maps has not actually been done and the maps have not been updated in a lot of places, which means that engineers should add a safety margin based on where scientists guess the new flood maps are likely to be. Better if the new flood maps were all ready but they aren't.
 

John from RI

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Hasn't there been high water cancellations east of New Haven in the past?
During hurricanes in 1938 and 1954 portions of the New Haven's Shoreline Tracks were washed out. Long Island buffers much of the Connecticut coast from storms but north of New London there is no buffer.

In Providence the water was about 5 feet deep during the storms. However, the tracks were elevated well above the water. Then under Mayor Vincent Cianci a new stations was built and a deep cut through the city was made. That's where the tracks run now. They are in or near land that was part of a tidal basin but was filled in many years ago.
 

Willbridge

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The flooding of the Portland<>Seattle line has happened randomly since it was built. When I was a kid, the NP was able to get Pool Train 408, ancestor of Amtrak Train 11, through by assigning a steam engine ("the mail must go through!"). However, the problem this month was deep enough to keep trains from wading through it.
 

George Harris

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In some places, based on the new data, former 100-year floods are now 20-year floods; former 1000-year floods are now 100-year floods; all the percentages just went up. Unfortunately the work to complete updating the flood maps has not actually been done and the maps have not been updated in a lot of places, which means that engineers should add a safety margin based on where scientists guess the new flood maps are likely to be. Better if the new flood maps were all ready but they aren't.
Visit fema.gov/flood-maps and you will see:
Flood maps help mortgage lenders determine insurance requirements and help communities develop strategies for reducing their risk. The mapping process helps you and your community understand your flood risk and make more informed decisions about how to reduce or manage your risk.
Nothing here about engineering design. There is a discussion on this page about the updating process, which says in essence it won't be fast.
 
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The flooding of the Portland<>Seattle line has happened randomly since it was built. When I was a kid, the NP was able to get Pool Train 408, ancestor of Amtrak Train 11, through by assigning a steam engine ("the mail must go through!"). However, the problem this month was deep enough to keep trains from wading through it.
Was this flooding on the Sound or from rivers elsewhere on that stretch?

FEMA's flood maps are causing a lot of problems along Lake Michigan and may bankrupt a few moderate income condominium buildings on the lake in Chicago unfortunately, due to the massive insurance increases they are causing (like 6 figure increases
 

George Harris

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finally! Back in Mississippi
After this, I will say no more about any of this stuff unless asked.

This entire thing about flooding is not a simple subject with easy answers. As to the flooding along the tracks parallel to the Sound,
Was this flooding on the Sound or from rivers elsewhere on that stretch?
Good question: Not enough information seen to answer, but the solutions could differ significantly based on the source.

As to:
FEMA's flood maps are causing a lot of problems along Lake Michigan and may bankrupt a few moderate income condominium buildings on the lake in Chicago unfortunately, due to the massive insurance increases they are causing (like 6 figure increases
Again, much more information needed. Blaming the flood mapping may be shooting the messenger. Could be there are deficiencies that the flood studies are simply highlighting. If the maps are in error, then this issue needs to be raised by engineers competent in the field of flood analysis and management, and structures in/near flood prone areas.

My general thought as an engineer has always been to consider the data on the FEMA maps as the lowest elevation to consider and go up from there to get to a reasonable elevation. If in flood prone areas, do not even consider having a building floor elevation below the nearby road elevation.
 
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Willbridge

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cirdan

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Would only need a different route to avoid the tracks that skirt Pablo bay. I think the rest in California are safe, but erosion is also a thing so 🤷🏻
Where the value of the land is high enough, money will be found to protect the land, be it against erosion or rising sea levels. Nobody wants to lose high value land and as long as the costs of protection are less than the costs of losing the land, that is the logical thing to do.

It's the low value land that is most at risk. Uninhabited land away from cities.
 
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