Smoother surface

OECD Observer

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Anyone driving across different countries will be struck by the different qualities of national road networks. Yet, even the smoothest asphalt requires frequent maintenance, often at great cost in terms of money, traffic disruptions and so on.

A recent survey of OECD countries shows that road pavements on high-traffic roads are typically re-surfaced every ten years. Moreover, about half of national road budgets is spent on maintenance and rehabilitation of existing roads, the rest on new construction.

Now, many OECD countries are completing their primary road network and trying to reduce expenditure on new roads. The trouble is the road budgets required to maintain this infrastructure are higher than ever. And more roads are becoming high traffic routes, affecting wear and tear. Initial costs of wearing course materials for road surfaces can be high, yet these reflect mixing, haul, placement and traffic control, as well as labour, though not underlying structural or preparatory work, design, agency fees, and so on. The survey of 12 OECD countries also found that these initial costs account for about 9-12% of construction costs. The report sees “considerable economic benefit” in developing new longer-life surfaces, which though three times more expensive initially, would lengthen durability from around 10-15 years today to 30-40 years.

©OECD Observer No 251, September 2005

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