Urban Flooding Impacts on Traffic and Pedestrian Safety - Model Development and Validation

Focus Area



Air Quality, Environmental Process






1-2 years

Research Idea Scope

Urban catchments in rainy climates commonly are exposed to flood threats. Urban flooding may cause material losses in the form of public and private property damage. Furthermore, street flooding may interfere with traffic and in some cases, may jeopardize pedestrian safety, specially to those with special needs. While the probability of extreme storm events is projected to rise under the global warming scenarios, currently there are no frameworks that integrate transportation and hydrologic/hydraulic components for identifying critical areas for traffic and pedestrian safety during these events, in particular for retrofitting critical zones of urban flooding (e.g., to add inlet grates or to improve the capacity of the drainage system).  

The main goal of the proposed research is to develop an open source model (free and open access) that can be used for assessing the impacts of urban flooding on traffic and pedestrian safety under present and climate change scenarios. For achieving this goal, we will develop a novel framework that combines a transportation component (new) with an existing hydrology/hydraulic component. Both pedestrians with and without special needs will be considered. It is worth to mention that the hydrologic/hydraulic component of the proposed framework has recently been developed by the PI and collaborators. The Transportation component doesn’t exist and will be developed from scratch and will be integrated into the hydrologic/hydraulic component. The hydrologic/hydraulic component will provide water depths and flow velocities in an entire urban area at the desired space and time resolution. The transportation component will use these water depths and flow velocities to create spatial and time-varying maps of traffic efficiency and pedestrian safety. The transportation component will consider vehicular and pedestrian demand and distribution across the surface transportation network as well as access to alternative routes at an identical space and time resolution as the hydrology-hydraulic model.

To show the proof of concept of the model to be developed, it will be applied to an actual urban catchment in the village of Dolton, a southern suburb of the city of Chicago. This urban catchment consists of 600 streets having inlet grates, and an underground pipe system to evacuate the flow.

Urgency and Payoff

The outcome of this research will result in an open source model (free and open access) that can be used by Federal agencies, Municipalities, practitioners and academic communities for creating maps of critical areas for traffic and pedestrian safety. The operational maps will identify the area of influence around infrastructure that has been made impassable due to excessive flooding. Color coded maps will provide easily distinguishable differences in traffic pattern under typical operating conditions and those of a flooded network. These models will provide transportation managers the ability to modify traffic signal operations to optimize the performance of the available network and public safety officials with the ability to identify appropriate corridors to bring critical supplies to needed destinations in the most efficient manner. The model to be developed could be used also for retrofitting critical areas in an urban drainage system (e.g., to add inlet grates or to improve the capacity of the drainage system). The resulting framework will be usable under present and climate change scenarios.

Suggested By

Dr. Arturo Leon, Oregon State University

[email protected]