Dutchess County Documents Climate Threats

Flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida damaged tracks on Metro-North's Hudson Line in 2021.

Flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida damaged tracks on Metro-North's Hudson Line in 2021.

Will identify risks to bridges, railways, roads 

As New York State prepares to dole out funding to prevent flooding and protect infrastructure,  Dutchess County is busy identifying the bridges, roads and railroad lines most threatened by severe weather. 

Storms that cause flooding and landslides pose the greatest risk to infrastructure, including culverts and rail trails, according to the Dutchess County Transportation Council (DCTC). 

Its 16 voting members include Beacon Mayor Lee Kyriacou, Fishkill Supervisor Ozzy Albra and other elected officials, as well as the chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a state Department of Transportation commissioner. 

Severe storms, such as the one that occurred July 9, have sent floodwaters and debris from eroded embankments onto the tracks of Metro-North’s Hudson Line, disrupting service for residents in the Highlands. 

During that July storm, which dropped as much as 2 inches of rain per hour, a Metro-North train filled with passengers became stuck for hours near Manitou Station in Garrison. In 2021, the remnants of Hurricane Ida also inflicted heavy damage to the Hudson Line.

The tracks are sure to be included in the DCTC list. The goal of its study is to help the county, the state Department of Transportation and Metro-North decide which pieces of infrastructure should be prioritized with funding, said Mark Debald, the Dutchess transportation program administrator. 

“You could have a [high-risk] bridge that may only get 200 vehicles crossing a day,” said Debald. “How’s that compared to another bridge that’s high-risk but carrying 10,000 vehicles a day?” 

One funding source could be New York State’s $4.2 billion Environmental Bond Act, which voters approved in November 2022. Raising and relocating flood-prone roads and other infrastructure, and improving the ability of bridges and culverts to withstand flooding, are among the projects eligible for $650 million of the fund.

The DCTC began its study in December. Four months ago, it released an assessment of the county’s changing weather patterns, including rising temperatures and more-intense storms. 

According to that report, July 2020 was the warmest month on record in Dutchess, with an average temperature of 77.8 degrees and a record 17 days above 90 degrees. In urbanized areas such as Beacon, Fishkill and Poughkeepsie, heat is amplified by asphalt and concrete. 

The average high temperatures in Dutchess, historically about 60 degrees, are projected to rise to 65 degrees by 2050 and as much as 68 degrees by 2080, according to the DCTC. So is annual precipitation, by as much as 2 inches by the middle of the century and 3.5 inches by 2080. 

Debald recalled Hurricane Irene in 2011, when Poughkeepsie residents used canoes to navigate flooded streets after the Fall Kill Creek overflowed. “That was pretty stark,” he said. 

The DCTC is hoping residents will identify infrastructure at risk from flooding, landslides and other weather, through their own experiences. An ongoing survey allows people to pinpoint trouble spots and describe the impact on their travel, Debald said. 

The survey, along with an interactive map that shows at-risk infrastructure, is available at Resilient Ways Forward (resilientwaysforward.com).

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