Lack of funding returns semi-paved roads to gravel in remote areas of the country
Over the last decade, a total of 600 kilometres of surfaced country roads have been returned to gravel
When the surface of a tarred road is in poor shape, it may be returned to a gravel surface.
Dozens of kilometres of so-called SOP-surfaced roads will be returned to gravel even in the current year.
The SOP-surfaced roads are gravel roads treated with a special method in which the surface is bound with bitumen solution and crushed aggregates. The surface will be removed if the road is in poor condition and its traffic volume is low.
The number of SOP-surfaced roads is bound to decline, as there is no money for improvements, reports the Finnish Transport Agency.
”The surfacing has been made without repairing the structures of the roads. The only operation has been so-called permanent dust binding”, reports expert Vesa Männistö from the Finnish Transport Agency.
During the summer, SOP-surfaced roads have been returned to gravel roads in Northern Ostrobothnia, Pirkanmaa, and North Savo.
The removal or change of SOP-surfaces has been going on throughout the entire 2000s. A road with a traffic volume of less than 100 vehicles per day will sooner or later end up being returned to gravel.
The Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centre) in Central Finland reports that on many roads traffic volumes have come down considerably after the time of surfacing. The same applies to the entire country.
When the SOP method was used in the 1980s, the idea was to make the gravel roads less muddy and dusty.
During the following decade, it was noticed that the surface did not stand up well to heavy traffic and frost.
However, local residents are often very fond of their SOP-surfaced roads, even though their maintenance is problematic.
”Citizens have felt that they are losing their vested interests. They think that the society does not regard their home district as important”, Männistö notes.
In more northern areas, SOP-surfaces are mainly removed, while in Southern Finland, particularly in the region of Uusimaa, busier SOP roads have been repaired and replaced with a more durable asphalt paving.
In Kanta-Häme and Päijät-Häme, there are still about 400 kilometres of SOP roads left. Particularly in the neighbourhood of Hämeenlinna, there are roads in bad condition. According to the ELY Centre, the fate of these roads will be discussed in the autumn.
When the funds reserved for the maintenance of highways are allocated to major roads, the next in the firing line are oil gravel roads.
The fate of such roads is being discussed for example in the region of Kymenlaakso, reports Antti Rinta-Porkkunen, Director of the Southeast Finland ELY Centre.
Some sporadic stretches of oil gravel roads have already been returned to gravel.
”It is likely that low-volume roads will be returned to gravel even in the future, as surface preparation is expensive”, says Vesa Männistö.
The Finnish Transport Agency: Road Maintenance
Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY Centres)