A decade on the roads: the traffic volumes and maintenance backlog have grown

A decade on the roads: the traffic volumes and maintenance backlog have grown

Published 31.12.2019

During the past decade, the road traffic volumes have grown. Due to a lack of funding, there has not been a corresponding growth in road maintenance.

The road traffic volumes have increased by roughly 6.5% between 2010 and 2018. During the past decade, road traffic has increased nearly every year – the only exceptions have been the years 2012 and 2013. Even in those years, traffic volumes decreased very moderately.

At the moment, the highway network is approximately 78,000 kilometres long, and its length has remained the same throughout the 2000s. This does not mean, however, that the road network has not changed. For example, in 2019 there were approximately 926 kilometres of motorways, whilst in 2010, the total length of motorways was 765 kilometres.

The number of bridges has also increased; roughly 300 have been built during this decade. Several of these bridges are exceptionally long. The recently completed Vekaransalmi, Jännevirta and Laitaatsalmi bridges are all among the ten longest bridges in Finland. There are currently approximately 15,000 bridges in the highway network.

In addition, the amount of cycle paths and walkways has increased by a couple of hundred kilometres. Likewise, there are 300 kilometres more of illuminated road than at the start of the decade.

The maintenance backlog increased in the 2010s

There has been a lot of talk about the maintenance backlog in the 2010s – and for good reason. At the start of the decade in 2000–2010, roughly 3,500 kilometres of road were paved per year. In 2010–2018, only slightly fewer than 2,500 kilometres of road were paved per year. The decreases in the amount of paving were due to a lack of funding.

In addition to paving, the increased maintenance debt is also visible in bridges. At the moment, there are more than 400 bridges with a weight limit and more than 500 bridges classified as being in poor condition. The increased size of vehicles also affects the weight limits.

Even though the maintenance backlog increased in the 2010s, the current outlook is slightly more positive. The new Government programme added a permanent total increase of EUR 300 million for the management of the basic transport infrastructure. Thanks to this increase, the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency can slowly whittle down the maintenance backlog of roads, railways and waterways.