After China's Subway Flood Deaths, Boston Warned It Too Faces 'Severe' Threat

After numerous residents in China died from floods in the country's subway stations, Boston was recently warned that it faces a "severe" threat of flooding amid rising sea levels, according to a new study.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tulane University warned that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's (MBTA) network of railroads faces threats of flooding over the next 50 years.

"Severe flooding is a grave challenge for the T," said Michael Martello, a researcher in MIT's Transit Lab and lead author of the report, according to the Boston Globe.

The study, which was commissioned by the MBTA, states: "Sea level rise (SLR) poses increasing flood risks to coastal cities and infrastructure."

The authors of the study said they looked at sea-level rise estimates to predict which parts of the MBTA's rail system will be affected by flooding. The authors said they used "a reference 1-100 year coastal flood event we show decreasing resilience of the rail transit network as projected SLR increases."

"We propose a general framework of engineering resilience for infrastructure systems in the context of climate change and illustrate its application for the assessment of SLR impacts on the rail rapid transit network in Boston," the study said.

"Within this framework, projected coastal flood events are treated as exogenous exposure events, which interact with both physical and topological endogenous network characteristics."

According to the Boston Globe, the study predicted that by 2030, a 100-year storm will flood the entire MBTA Blue Line as well as parts of the Red and Orange lines. The study found that 40 years later, by 2070, a 100-year storm would flood a majority of the MBTA network and "system connectivity" between the different lines will be decreased to just 9 percent, the Globe reported.

The study also stated that if coastal storms become more severe in the future, the MBTA will face an "existential" threat, the Globe reported.

In response to the study, a spokesperson for the MBTA said in a statement sent to Newsweek: "While the study is informative, it is not surprising given the susceptibility of all of Boston and its infrastructure to rising sea levels (with help from MBTA staff, the study's writers placed the MBTA infrastructure on a flood model for the entire city of Boston)."

"The MBTA continues to pay particular attention to the Blue Line which travels under Boston Harbor and through East Boston...a neighborhood very susceptible to flooding," the statement said.

"The MBTA has taken a series of steps to make the Blue Line more resilient. Workers have made infrastructure upgrades to improve flood resilience and prevent water leaks and corrosion. The T is partnering with outside entities to address the Blue Line's flood risk with landscape-level flood protection strategies and an asset-specific strategy that is closely tied to capital projects and upgrades for the Blue Line."

The study comes shortly after China was faced with severe flooding in the Henan province's subway systems. According to ABC News, record-breaking rainfall led to flooding that killed at least 71, including 14 in a subway station near the province's capital of Zhengzhou.

Boston railroad
A new study warned that the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s rail network faces a "severe" flooding threat. Above, a general view of the Red Line subway train at the Charles MGH station on August 31, 2018, in Boston. Paul Marotta/Getty