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Repair jobs on Finnish roads down by 40% this summer

An annual sign of spring, paving work begins soon in some areas, with most projects getting underway in May.

Asfalttityöntekijöitä tekemässä asfalttitöitä Lohjalla Koisjärven kylässä.
Peab Asfalt employees paving Route 1271 in Lohja, southwest Finland, last spring. Image: Toni Määttä / Yle

The annual road paving and repair season begins soon. It follows a winter of sharp temperature fluctuations that took a toll on the nation's roads.

Some paving work begins in late April, weather permitting, but most projects will not get underway until May.

The volume of roadwork will be down by nearly 40 percent compared to last year. About 2,500 kilometres of new pavement will be laid, compared to some 4,000 kilometres last year.

The government has set aside 170 million euros for this year's paving contracts, compared to 250 million euros last year.

"The budget has been trimmed evenly throughout Finland, but the cuts focus on quieter road sections. The aim is to keep the main roads in good condition," said Virpi Anttila, director of the infrastructure management division of the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency.

The reduction means an increase in the long-term shortfall in required road repairs. According to the agency, 3,500 to 4,000 kilometres of roads should be paved annually so that overall road conditions do not deteriorate.

Last year, this level was exceeded, partly due to low prices for bitumen, but this year marks a return to more typical amounts of new pavement.

Record roadworks during 1993 recession

"This year's volume is in the average range of the 2010s. The goal is for us to be able to resurface about 4,000 kilometres each year. That way, we'd be able to reduce the long-term deficit in needed repairs," Anttila said.

There are about 50,000 kilometres of paved state-maintained roads in Finland, and about 7,100 kilometres of them are in poor condition, according to the agency. Altogether there are about 454,000 kilometres of Finland, most of them unpaved.

This year's total will fall far short of the all-time road-repair record.

In 1993, some 7,000 kilometres of roads were paved as part of government job creation efforts during a severe recession, when the unemployment rate hit 22 percent.

Pavements are also being overhauled and extended on footpaths and cycle paths. Last year, 170 kilometres of new light-traffic surfaces were completed, while this year's target is just over 120 kilometres.

Biggest overhaul in Savo

This year's largest paving contract is near Kouvola on Highway 6, where a new surface will stretch 34 kilometres from Utti to Taavetti in Luumäki. The second longest is near Pori, a 28-kilometre segment of Route 2680 between Pooskeri and Merikarvia.

Similar distances are to be covered on Highway 5 between Ristijärvi and Hyrynsalmi in Kainuu, on the Oitti-Mäntsälä stretch of Route 1471 in south-central Finland, and in the Fagervik coastal area of western Uusimaa.

In total, there are 450-500 road construction sites. The average length of paving work is about 5-6 kilometres.

As roadwork can result in major delays and detours for motorists, it's a good idea to check details of your route on the Fintraffic Traffic Situation Map or the Transport Infrastructure Agency's map service (in Finnish).

Paving work will continue until October or November. The largest asphalting firm is Peab Asfalt, followed by NCC, Asfalttikallio, Skanska and GRK. In 2013, eight companies were fined after being convicted of forming a price cartel to overcharge local authorities millions of euros for paving work over nearly a decade.

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