A new EU report* on road surfaces shows that Ireland drastically reduced our road maintenance budget between 2008 and 2011 due to the economic crisis. The report singles out Italy, Ireland, Slovenia and Spain as having serious reductions in the amount of investment in road maintenance according to Ireland South MEP and member of the European Parliament Transport Committee Deirdre Clune,
“Results from a related report, WhiteRoads project, show that good road design, the presence of adequate maintenance programmes, the installation of reliable homogenous traffic signage, road markings and appropriate lighting are among the key aspects that lead to low accident rates on sections of roads.
“The decision to drastically slash our road maintenance budget between 2008 and 2011 has had enormous economic and safety repercussions and was extremely short sighted. I understand that budgets were and continue to be limited but there are economic costs associated with poor road maintenance, not to mention an increased risk of accidents on our roads.
“I am concerned that road deaths have risen in Ireland for a second year. Yesterday I met with the European Road safety organisation, ETSC, who are trying to secure a number of new initiatives at European level including seat belt reminders for the back seats, alcohol interlocks on the ignition and enhanced safety design for cars.
“They also reiterated the importance of regular and constructive road maintenance for reducing accidents on our roads.
“In economic terms, the reduction in journey times associated with timely maintenance is one of the most widely recognised economic benefits of regular road maintenance. A survey carried out by the Asphalt Industry Association (2010) found that the average cost of poor maintenance per business is €16,300. Studies assessing the wider economic impacts of a lack of regular road maintenance carried out in Scotland and Lithuania show that the reduction in road maintenance expenditure can have an impact on the wider economy in the range of 100%-250%.
“The impact of the economic crisis has been higher where the funding of road infrastructure is highly dependent on government spending rather than from other sources of financing (e.g. toll roads), as is the case in Ireland.
“Amongst the measures the report recommends for improved and regular road maintenance is user-fed information, where electronic or web-based systems are used to allow drivers to report potholes, poor road surfaces, poor signage and road markings, as well as the use of recycled asphalt, a material that has the same level of quality as newly produced asphalt, but costs about 30% less.