In past years environmental issues have been a fairly minor consideration in the road condition management policies in the Northern Periphery. A continuing clean environment was thought to be a foregone conclusion. In recent years however society in general has become more aware of the changes that could happen to the environment and climate and to what could be done to reduce the negative influences. This general environmental interest also extends to what is happening in the roads and transportation sector.
Road construction, maintenance and road traffic can produce appreciable loadings on the environment if left unchecked. For this reason active measures need to be taken to achieve more environmentally sound road condition management operations to achieve both environmental and economic gains. The major environmental loading from the road sector originates principally from exhaust gases and emissions from road traffic, although road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance operations can cause significant environmental impact too.
The national environmental codes and assessments for most ROADEX countries contain guidelines for road design and maintenance. Protected nature areas, such as bird and plant reserves, generally restrict the location of new roads, especially forest roads.
Road management operations can cause many types of impacts on the environment. The most common ones in low volume roads are noise, dust and vibrations. The good news is that all can be mitigated by good planning and maintenance. For example dust problems can be reduced by watering, better material choices and the use of dust binders near to houses. Attention should also be paid to road material choices and to road furniture selection in rehabilitation operations and planning new roads. Good material selection can minimize impacts. Unexpected risks, such as oil spills, can also cause contamination of groundwater or the ground itself. Also poor practices in culvert replacement can be fatal to fish in small brooks.
Over the last years an important area of discussion has been climate change and how to reduce its effects. Carbon emissions can have a significant effect on climate change. The greatest source of carbon emissions is traffic and it is important that roads authorities concentrate on reducing their carbon emissions. Everyone can help reduce emissions by their own individual actions.
This ROADEX eLearning lesson on “Environmental Issues” covers the environmental related issues and practices in road condition management.
References other than ROADEX information and publications used in this chapter: Andrew Dawson: Water in road structures.