In a blog post yesterday (“Risk and the Fisc”), I cited an Old Dominion University study that guesstimated that Katrina-scale hurricane could cause $40 billion in damages and lost economic activity in Hampton Roads. The cost to the Commonwealth of coping with such a disaster, said Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne, “keeps me up at night.”
Today comes news that the cost of repairing road damage in the aftermath of Tropic Storm Michael is estimated to be $25 million. Six months after the storm hit Virginia, 17 roads around the state are still under repair, reports The Virginia Mercury. That’s the damage from a tropical storm, which generated a fraction of the rain, wind, and storm surge associated with a Class 5 hurricane.
Crews have been fixing pipes and washed-out roads, mostly inland where heavy rains caused flash flooding. I have seen maps showing the parts of Virginia, mainly in Hampton Roads and bordering the Chesapeake Bay, that would be inundated in storm surge. I haven’t seen any estimates of what a massive inundation would do to roads in those areas. The ODU study estimated $13 billion in water-related damage from a Katrina-scale hurricane. The explanation of how that figure was derived counts houses, business buildings, and essential public facilities such as schools, hospitals, fire stations, police stations, and emergency shelters, but says nothing about roads.
Layne worries where the money would come from to pay for evacuating and sheltering hundreds of of thousands of people from low-lying areas, cleaning up millions of tons of debris, and repairing state-owned infrastructure. Presumably, road repairs could be covered by state transportation funds by bumping other transportation projects. Bumping $25 million worth of projects doesn’t foist too much hardship on others. Bumping ten times that sum after a full-fledged hurricane might cause some trauma.
The Big Question: As Virginians think about building climate resilience into their land use patterns, we cannot avoid thinking about the public cost of maintaining and repairing roads in flood- and inundation-prone areas. Should the state continue socializing those costs or is there a mechanism, such as special tax districts, that would shift the costs to houses and businesses that choose to locate and/or rebuild in vulnerable zones?There are currently no comments highlighted.