The Atlantic Hurricane season began on June 1st and as if on cue, Tropical Storm (TS) Andrea visited Tampa Bay on June 5th. The year before, TS Debby dumped nearly 20 inches of rain and exposed the vulnerability of Tampa Bay’s transportation network to inundation. Flooding closed Bayshore Boulevard for several days and disrupted traffic between downtown Tampa, MacDill AFB, and Tampa General Hospital. These were minor storms. With no direct hurricane hit in over 90 years, this year by the Weather Channel named Tampa as the “most vulnerable and overdue” city for a direct hurricane hit.
Our transportation network is the key to economic vitality, quality of life, and emergency services in Hillsborough County. Understanding it’s vulnerability to extreme weather is important to preparing for disruptions to the system. Earlier this year, the Federal Highway Administration awarded a grant to the MPO, Planning Commission, Hillsborough County Public Works – Hazard Mitigation Section, University of South Florida, and the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. The grant is for a pilot project to assess the resiliency of our transportation system to extreme weather and climate impacts such as sea level rise, storm surge, and inland flooding.
The county’s Local Mitigation Strategy Working Group is the steering committee for this project. Last month, the group met and began to zero in on the most critical and vulnerable links in our transportation network.
The goal of the project is to integrate climate risk and transportation resiliency into the planning process. The pilot project will Identify vulnerable and critical links in the transportation system and recommend measures to prevent, mitigate, or adapt to inundation. These measures will then be considered for funding in the Plan 2040 Transportation Update. The project is expected to be completed by late summer / early fall 2014.