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Tue July 14 2020

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Mild winter damages Finnish roads

3 Feb Finland’s road authorities are expecting to have more potholes to patch than usual in the spring following an exceptionally snowless winter.

The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA) said that the mild winter has damaged road surfaces and gravel roads in many places. Southern Finland has not seen snow this winter and road surfaces have are taking a beating, as tyres force water into road surface cracks.

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

Rajala hopes it snows soon in the south; a cold winter is better for road surfaces as they are protected by a thin layer of snow and sub-zero temperatures.

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

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

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

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.

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 1,700km, said FTIA. This year, the situation looks better.

“Road resurfacing contracts are now being tendered,” said Rajala. “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.”

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