Road condition update: This year we’ll welcome winter with roads that are in better condition than last year
Published 19.11.2020 10.05
The long road resurfacing programme has improved the condition of roads this year. At the same time, the satisfaction of road users with the condition of arterial road surfaces has increased. In order to maintain good development, it should be possible to keep annual surfacing amounts at least at the same level as this year.
During this current year, the road surfacing programme has covered the longest stretch of road network in 15 years, approximately 4,000 kilometres. There have been roadworks all around Finland, as the funding has been at a better level than in previous years, the bitumen price has remained low and the whole sector has been working together to achieve its goals.
"The additional funding we received this year allowed us to resurface more roads than we have for a long while. According to our survey, the effects of surfacing measures are also evident in the increased satisfaction of road users,” says Kari Wihlman, Director-General of the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency.
The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency is responsible for the maintenance policies and consistency of maintenance of state-owned roads. ELY Centres tender out and conclude contracts and supervise works.
The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency carried out a road user satisfaction survey in August and September. During the survey, private persons and professional drivers of heavy vehicles were asked what they thought of Finland’s road conditions. Based on the results, the respondents were more satisfied than last year, especially with the condition of the road surfaces on arterial roads.
"In addition, drivers of vehicles were considerably more satisfied with the state and condition of roads compared to the previous two years," says Wihlman.
Although professional drivers expressed greater satisfaction in the condition of the road surfacing, this was still at a lower level than that of private drivers.
Road maintenance backlog reflected in feedback
In general, the satisfaction of citizens with Finland’s roads remained at the level of the previous year. Citizens are fairly satisfied with Finland’s arterial roads, but their satisfaction with paved roads and gravel roads outside the arterial route network remains low.
"Even though the road resurfacing programme has been extensive this year, it has not been possible to repair all roads in poor condition. There are a total of around 51,000 kilometres of surfaced roads, of which some 7,400 kilometres are in poor condition,” says road expert Juho Meriläinen.
Compared to last year, double the amount of roads outside the arterial route network were surfaced, which is around 1,500 kilometres. In spite of this, satisfaction in the secondary road network has not increased.
"This may be due to the secondary road network being considerably larger in size than the arterial route network and an increase in repairs of this scale may not yet be reflected in satisfaction. Maintenance measures would likely have to be completed on thousands more kilometres of road for it to be apparent in satisfaction,“ says Meriläinen.
Maintenance is also less frequent on the secondary road network, which means that pavements are in poor condition in many places. Winter conditions have a significant effect on the development of the condition of old surfaces. For example, last winter, the temperature constantly shifting between below and above zero, and the heavy rainfall in the south damaged the surfaces unusually much. In winter, maintenance can only carry out essential, small repairs.
However, the challenging weather conditions at our latitude cannot alone be blamed for potholes in our roads. The number of roads in poor condition is high, because, for example, throughout the 2010s the funding of almost all routes was insufficient. Since it has taken time for the maintenance backlog to build up, it also takes time to have it taken care of.
"Clearing the maintenance backlog is a marathon, not a sprint. We should be able to keep the amount of surfacing work at more than 4,000 km each year. This would prevent the maintenance backlog in surfacing from growing. We hope that the funding for maintenance will remain at a good level for a long time,“ says Wihlman, Director-General of the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency.
A total of 3,874 private persons and 1,167 professional drivers responded to the summer 2020 Road User Satisfaction Survey commissioned by the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency. The data collection was carried out between 17 August and 21 September 2020. The survey is carried out annually.
Juho Meriläinen, road maintenance expert,
Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency,
Tel. +358 (0)29 534 3564