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Research Projects (2006-07)

Identifying Number


Project Title

Seismic Vulnerability and Emergency Response Analyses of UDOT Lifelines


University of Utah

Project Investigator:

Peter T. Martin, Associate Professor
Dept. Of Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Utah

External Project Contact

Rukhsana (Shana) Lindsey, P.E.
Director of Research & Bridge Operations
4501 S. 2700 W. - Box 148410
Salt Lake City, UT 84114-8410
Office: (801) 965-4196
Fax: (801) 965-4564
E-mail: rlindsey@utah.gov

Project Objective

Earthquake losses and the post-earthquake performance of a transportation system cannot be assessed by only considering its individual components. The network must be analyzed as a system that incorporates: (1) the highway system network configuration, (2) locations, redundancies, and traffic capacities and volumes of the system's roadway links and (3) component location within these links (Werner et al., 2000). A rational method of assessing earthquake losses and improving system performance should account for system impacts resulting from the loss or decreased capacity of the individual components and their combined effects to the network.

Project Abstract

Earthquakes damage transportation infrastructure. This project takes a systematic approach to the assessment of Earthquake risk in terms of the impact on transportation capability, in terms of effectiveness and cost benefit analysis.

Research Objectives

This study focuses on two key areas:

  1. an assessment of the importance (i.e., criticality) and seismic vulnerability of the transportation network and
  2. an evaluation of the traffic network's emergency response and post-earthquake recovery functions.

The objectives of the study are:

  1. Identify and prioritize UDOT's lifeline corridors and facilities using a risk-based approach.
  2. Assess the seismic vulnerability of UDOT infrastructure using a systems approach.
  3. Recommend specific lifeline corridors for protection/maintenance/improvement using cost-benefit analyses.
  4. Recommend to UDOT emergency response strategies/activities to enhance post-earthquake response and recovery.
  5. Develop a GIS-based interface between earthquake assessment and transportation analysis tools.

This study will focus on performing these objectives for Salt Lake County, Utah. This county was selected first because a comprehensive traffic model has already developed and strong motion and liquefaction assessments are already underway from research contracts with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Once the methodologies have been developed, tested and reviewed for this county, then they will be applied to other counties based on the needs of UDOT.

The vulnerability and priority assessment of the traffic network will be assessed using a systems approach. Risk assessment, traffic modeling and loss estimation techniques will be applied to the transportation network to determine vulnerability of the system and key lifeline corridors that must be protected, maintained or upgraded to perform key emergency response and recovery functions. In addition, the risk and traffic models can be used to evaluate alternative measures and their system-wide effects in reducing traffic flow impacts and economic losses due to earthquakes. The results of the risk assessment will also be used to develop emergency response strategies/activities to aid in pre and post-earthquake planning.

The outcomes from the study can be summarized as a series of questions (Werner, 2000):

  1. How should the system be strengthened or improved?
  2. What components should be retrofitted?
  3. How should components be retrofitted?
  4. What post-earthquake response and recovery strategies should be carried out?
  5. How can traffic be managed after an earthquake?
  6. What level of funding is appropriate for improving seismic performance of the system?

Task Descriptions

The project will be managed by three Co-Principal Investigators from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Utah. Drs. Bartlett, Martin, and Burian. The tasks are sub-divided as follows:

  1. Perform seismic hazard assessment (e.g., ground motion, liquefaction, surface fault hazards, landslides) of the study area using REDARS or other available hazard models.
  2. Adapt or develop seismic performance criteria (i.e., fragility curves) for key highway components and use REDARS to perform vulnerability assessment.
  3. Use REDARS to perform loss estimation using the results of the hazard model, the vulnerability model and the economic impact model.
  4. Assist in identification of lifelines suing traffic assessment.
  5. Identify protection/maintenance/improvement strategies for key lifelines and perform cost-benefit analyses of these strategies.
  6. Review UDOT emergency response plan and make recommendations regarding strategies/activities that will enhance post-earthquake response and recovery.
  7. Rebuild and adjust UTL VISUM model due to recent changes in WFRC TP+ model.
  8. Estimate emergency-related trip activities on the post-earthquake highway system. This task encompasses estimation of trip activities immediately after an earthquake and in the following few days.
  9. Incorporate all earthquake impacts coming from the component vulnerability assessment to develop meaningful and consistent scenarios of the post-earthquake transportation infrastructure.
  10. Develop set of Monte-Carlo scenarios that will consider probabilistic natures of the seismic activities and states of the infrastructure. Estimated completion time 2 months (can run concurrently with other UTL tasks, but Hazards Modeling and Component Vulnerability Assessments have to be done first).
  11. Run set of traffic assignments for the developed scenarios with adjusted post-earthquake traffic demand and network of functional roads. All previous tasks are finished before this task can start.
  12. Analyze data from traffic assignments and outputting them as set of user-related Measures of Effectiveness (MOE). These outputs will be used to estimate traveler costs due to disrupted traffic operations in the network damaged by an earthquake.
  13. Compile three components into one Interim Report.
  14. Compile three components into one Final Report.
  15. Create geodatabase schema, interface data model, and interface module to link REDARS and VISUM.
  16. Create tools to assist synthesis of simulation results and assessment. Use tools to generate spatial maps and other assessment products.

Milestones, Dates


Each report will comprise three components from each of the Co-PI's. The Final Report will contain a fourth section containing recommendations on the UDOT Emergency Plan.

  1. Interim Report
  2. Draft final technical report
  3. Final technical report
    1. ARC GIS modules developed to interface with REDARS
    2. Recommendations to UDOT
    3. Revisions/Updates to Emergency Response Plan


  • Opening: September 2006
  • Progress: December 2006
  • Progress: April 2007
  • Present Draft Final report: June 2007

Yearly and Total Budget


Student Involvement

Sixteen graduate research assistants will be employed on the project.

Relationship to other Research Projects

This project is new and has no relationship to others.

Technology Transfer Activities

Data sharing, database development

Potential Benefits of the Project

Major earthquakes have the potential of causing tens to hundreds of millions of dollars of damage to Utah's transportation infrastructure. The urban part of Utah should expect damage to buildings and infrastructure to exceed $4.5 billion in Davis, Salt Lake, Utah and Weber counties from a major earthquake (http://www.seis.utah.edu/qfacts). However, this estimate may only represent 20% of the total economic loss. Potential losses from earthquakes are not restricted to life safety and infrastructure damage (e.g., damage to bridges, retaining walls, embankments, etc.), but also include short-term and long-term economic losses. For example, damage to the transportation network can severely disrupt traffic flows for months to years. Such interruptions can severely impact local and state economics and impede emergency response operations. Earthquake shaking, surface faulting and ground failures (e.g., liquefaction and landslides) during a large earthquake will cause major disruption of lifelines (utilities, water, sewer), transportation systems (highways, bridges, airports, railways), and communications systems (http://www.seis.utah.edu/qfacts). The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) recognizes the risks posed by these hazards and has funded this evaluation.

TRB Keywords

traffic operations; traffic control; safety; emergency planning

NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050