6. Environmental aspects in road design

The environmental aspects of roads projects are normally addressed during the design phase and great efforts should be made to protect the surrounding natural environment from any related impacts. This includes everything from animals and plants, geology and landscape, and the natural processes that affect them all. If this can be done, and properly documented and informed, it is likely that fewer objections will be raised against the project. Note: both the road owner and contractor have a legal responsibility for any damage that may occur to the environment, and the consequential costs.

The main aims in this work should be:

• The identification of any species or special areas in the project before construction or rehabilitation work is started.

• The protection of these species and areas during the construction process.

One very important factor in designing totally new roads is to take into account any wild animal routes crossing the line of the new road and what measures would be needed to allow the animals to cross the new road safely. The solution could be to plan special bridges or tunnels suitable for the animals. This will enhance traffic safety and reduce the numbers of deaths of wild animals on the road.

In the design phase it is important to carry out a sufficient environmental analysis for each of the alternative engineering options to outline the impacts of the different alternatives on the natural environment. Environmental analyses are not always required by law, but they are very useful tools to illustrate impacts during the design process. When the likely impacts are known, they be used to make good decisions.

Special care should be taken for known sensitive area in the planned works to ensure that all interested parties are aware of their type and location. Measures can be taken where necessary to protect the objects physically. A simple fence may sometimes be sufficient, whereas more substantial protection may be needed for other sites. The time of the year may also be important for some animal species. A bird that is sitting on eggs or has chicks during the early summer may be very sensitive to disturbances such as grass cutting, whereas the same bird may migrate in the autumn thus removing the concern.

Roads projects may occasionally run through terrain that, for a variety of reasons, is fully protected under a nature conservation order. In this case, it is particularly important that all work is contained within the approved road area, and that care is taken to ensure that everyone involved is aware of this. Existing parking sites should be used for parking vehicles and storing equipment, preferably in consultation with nature conservation authorities. Common sense is often enough for dealing with these matters. If assistance is needed, the authorities responsible can be consulted and they, in turn, will contact centres of appropriate competence if they consider it necessary.

Other references than ROADEX information and publications used in this chapter: www.ymparisto.fi