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The Impact of Climate Change on Highway Maintenance

14 AUGUST, 2021

Climate change has already begun to weaken the condition of the UK’s road networks and transport systems. Adverse weather, heat damage, and flooding are causing rapid deterioration and damage to road networks which are both costly and time consuming to repair.

The symptoms of a climate crisis are to blame for rapid deterioration in the quality of road networks. The extreme weather conditions and contrasting seasonal changes in temperature and precipitation levels have taken their toll on local infrastructure. Intense downpours and icy winters met by dry summers and rising temperatures have caused dangerous cracks to open up in the roads and more potholes to form. Last year around 1.5 million potholes were reportedly filled, the equivalent of one pothole being repaired every 21 seconds and accounted for roughly 60% of all defects dealt with by local authorities.

The impact of climate change on the UK Road Maintenance Sector has been devastating. The sector, which has already seen significant cuts to their budget, are now facing accelerated rates of road deterioration and damage as potholes are cropping up faster than they can be filled. This year’s ALARM Report figures for England and Wales that road conditions have worsened since last year, with an additional 7,240 miles fewer “good” condition roads and 1,100 miles of “poor” roads.

The highway maintenance sector has experienced a rise in unforeseen expenditure across parts of England and Wales in response to adverse weather, flooding, and natural disaster that has wreaked havoc on UK infrastructure. Last year, an estimated 20% of the carriageway maintenance budget was spent on reactive maintenance as a result of climate change.

The impact that climate change and extreme weather conditions have had on our roads comes at a great cost to citizens who rely on them for everyday movement, and the highway maintenance sector who lack the funding necessary to address this crisis. Funding is desperately needed to address the severe deterioration and damage. The National Infrastructure Commission have recommended in their NIA 2018 Report that £500 million per year of funding should be made available for local highway authorities to address the local road maintenance backlog for a period of at least 10 years.

It is unlikely that the Transport Department will be able to deliver on such an ambitious funding package when the effects of climate change are being felt throughout all sectors of government and public life requiring significant investments to be made in a number of industries. Therefore, it is essential that the Highway sector uses its budget as cost-effectively as possible. Unfortunately, traditional methods of road resurfacing and pothole repair are costly, time-consuming, and weather dependant.

Regular asphalt installation requires heavy machinery and a team of professional plant operators to carry out the job. Whether a road requires a full-depth repair and replacement for large scale damage or thermal patching to mend potholes, the necessary equipment required to heat, spread, and flatten traditional asphalt into place and the essential manpower comes with a high price tag for the highway maintenance sector.

The job is also time-consuming, as the asphalt needs to be heated before it can be spread. Heating times, particularly when using thermal patching, can vary according to the road surface, wind, and ambient temperature. The asphalt is only workable when hot so personnel must work quickly to spread and flatten the substance before it can harden. The surface must section off while the road maintenance occurs and should not be used for at least 24 hours following installation, longer in summer when the ambient temperature is high.

Storing traditional asphalt is another cost that ought to be considered. The asphalt is heated and stored at temperatures above 150 degrees Celsius in expensive storage tanks before being moved to the construction site. The cost of energy required to keep the asphalt hot as well as the cost of storage and transportation not only limits the highway maintenance sector from using their funds more effectively to tackle the rapid deterioration of roads by climate change but actually contributes to the climate crisis that has created the problem in the first place. Neither the materials used nor the installation process is environmentally friendly.

Not only is climate change a cause of the pain felt by the highway maintenance sector but its effects continue to limits their response to the crisis. Resurfacing roads and pothole repairs using traditional asphalt is heavily dependent on good weather. As a result, road maintenance work is often stalled, or put on hold during the winter season.

Mending roads in extreme weather conditions is incredibly difficult, because of the machines, materials, and equipment necessary for the job as well as the asphalt itself. Most asphalt cannot be prepared or laid when the ground is wet and icy. Laying asphalt in wet conditions can compromise the longevity and success of the installation.

With all factors working against them, the highway maintenance sector is in dire need of a cost-effective solution that can help them combat the impact of climate change without causing more damage to the environment. The solution is EZ.

EZ Street asphalt is a high quality, less expensive alternative to traditional road surfacing and reparation materials, but crucially, is also a greener, more sustainable product, substituting the diesel found in many cold asphalt solutions with biofuel to produce a cold asphalt that is less reliant on fossil fuels and therefore part of the climate change solution, instead of adding to the problem.

Red Stag Materials have brought EZ Street asphalt to the UK from the USA and Canada where it has been thoroughly tried and tested. Red Stag Materials are confident that using EZ Street to address the pothole crisis here in the UK, will translate to significant savings in manhours and equipment costs for local councils.

EZ Street is a cold, hydrophobic, compact-based product that can be stored for up to 12 months, easily and quickly installed, allowing for immediate use, and workable in all weather conditions. It is a cold asphalt solution that will cut costs and increase productivity within the highway maintenance sector.

To find out more about EZ Street asphalt repairs contact Red Stag Materials today on 03456460354.