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Winter roads and climate adaptation: Prospective solutions through R&D


In Canada, the total length of the winter road network is estimated at 10,000 km. These are roads that are usable only in the winter. Nature controls the state of a winter road’s foundation – natural ground and ice surfaces – which needs to be trafficable and able to support the vehicles’ weight. These surfaces are particularly sensitive to climate change. A large number of adaptation measures were developed over the years, which can be applied at the planning, construction and maintenance stages, and for traffic management. We have reached a stage where increasing our fundamental knowledge base is required. This can be done through research and development (R&D). Avenues of investigation include a field tool to characterize winter roads in a more systematic fashion, by combining physical information (e.g. road grades, cross-slopes, width, over-land vs over-water ratio) with all operational and logistical data (e.g. opening and closure dates, nature of goods transported) into an interactive database. This could be used for capacity and multimodal planning, as well as to guide priorities on road realignment and incremental replacement (partial or complete) by all-weather road segments. Several outstanding questions regarding the bearing capacity and deformational behavior of floating ice roads could also be addressed. Topics that need to be investigated include: ice cover strength, how long a vehicle can be parked on the ice, how cracking patterns affect ice integrity, and the investigation of known procedures, techniques and technologies to reinforce an ice cover.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Solutions for Transportation Design and Construction
Barrette, P.D.
Charlebois, L.
Climate change