Mild winter damaging roads

Mild winter damaging roads

Published 31.1.2020

An exceptionally snowless winter has damaged road surfaces and gravel roads in many places. The ELY Centres and the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA) that are responsible for road maintenance are likely going to have more potholes to patch than usual next spring.

Especially in southern Finland that has not seen snow this winter, road surfaces have deteriorated more rapidly. The road surfaces are taking a beating, as tyres force water into road surface cracks.

“Traffic and water together create even bigger potholes. At worst, a pothole can grow in a few hours large enough to hinder the traffic,” says Pekka Rajala, Director, Road, at the FTIA.

A cold winter would be more ideal for road surfaces when they are protected by a thin layer of snow and sub-zero temperatures. Director Rajala therefore hopes it snows soon in the south too.

What can be done about a potholed road in the winter?

“Road patching in wet and cold conditions is difficult. In the winter, we can make temporary patches that are replaced with permanent ones in the spring and summer,” says Rajala.

Patching has caused higher than normal costs for road maintenance services. The maintenance of gravel roads, too, has been exceptionally costly this winter. Although there has been less need for snow ploughing, the mild winter has not meant saving costs.

“In addition to patching potholes, gravel roads have required more maintenance than usual due to frequent freezing and thawing. New gravel has had to be added especially to roads in Southwest Finland to ensure their accessibility,” says Rajala.

Snowing heavily in the north

Although southern Finland has been almost snowless, the situation in the north has been different. There has been record snowfall in Northern Finland, with snow-plough equipment being in constant use. This has increased contractors’ costs.

The north and east of the country have also seen sub-zero weather followed by frequent rains that have hampered anti-skid treatment. Rainwater freezes quickly on a cold road surface and dilutes the road salt. If grit is used in anti-skid treatment, it may remain in the ice when the water freezes on the surface of the road.

Next summer more road resurfacing than last year

Potholes left by the winter will be fixed during the spring and summer. Arterial roads also have a backlog of potholes that had been created earlier. Last summer, the amount of road resurfacing was exceptionally small because of lack of funding, just over 1,700 kilometres. This year, the situation looks better.

“Road resurfacing contracts are now being tendered. The final price level will depend on the amount of resurfacing work done next summer. The amount of resurfacing next summer, however, is going to be significantly larger than in 2019. I think we will be able to do nearly twice as much road resurfacing,” says Rajala.

Further information

Pekka Rajala, Director, Road
the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency,
tel. 029 534 3626