Motorways: back to the future

06 of May of 2013

Ensuring traffic fluidity in cities, improving travelling experience and safety in long-distance journeys and developing means of payment that save drivers time are the challenges the motorways sector has to face. Thinking of motorways and the future at the same time may lead us to imagine vehicles that move by levitating above ground. Unfortunately for lovers of science fiction, my perspective for motorways in the next 20, 30 or 40 years, fortunately for our business, still includes cars, lorries, motorbikes, coaches or any other means of transport that travels on asphalt or concrete roads. It is possible that the use of electric motors may become widespread, as may other technologies that mitigate the impact of transportation on the environment; or perhaps vehicles that include intelligent guiding options, but the infrastructures will essentially be the same as the current ones, at least in their form.

When speaking of the motorways of the future we should differentiate between two types of roads with highly disparate characteristics: urban corridors or inter-city, long-distance corridors. Among the former, given that the growth of towns appears to be a trend that will continue, the current pressure on transport infrastructures for access into cities and those for internal travel is steadily growing. This means that we expect the model of managed lanes to become a more widespread alternative to optimise the use of available road capacity, given that this is a scarce and unique resource in the accesses to urban centres.

Another important evolution will be the integration of such urban motorways into metropolitan design. In this regard, we will need greater collaboration with local transportation. The major arteries leading into cities will thus have to offer a seamless connection with urban transport and parking networks.

In overcrowded cities it will be essential to plan the movements of their inhabitants, taking all the “phases” into account: parking, motorways and public transport. It is in this aspect where we will see the greatest advances in technology, such as reserving spaces in car parks, dynamic toll fees on roads or satellite billing per kilometre travelled, to mention a few.

As for the latter, the inter-city corridors, I believe that the trend will be towards including, as part of their design, new road safety developments or improvements in the offering of entertainment products, such as internet access from the car’s computer to enable people to work while travelling or while sitting in a traffic jam, or simply to enhance the travelling experience.

In addition, we may well advance in the segregation of traffic to improve safety through the creation of dedicated toll lanes for lorries; another possible future development may be integrated transport corridors, including in the same strip of land other elements such as oil and gas pipelines or railway tracks as well as roads.

Lastly, the future of motorways is linked to the new means of payment based on options already available today, such as electronic tolls or payment via mobile telephone or satellite that allow motorways to assign the corresponding payment to each vehicle for the use of the road network.

Cintra is a leader in innovation and solutions for the future. Its participation in the first electronic toll expressway in the world, Toronto’s 407 ETR (Canada), represented a revolution in the development of more powerful technological solutions, such as toll charging via satellite or the managed lanes model in Texas. Today, as then, Cintra’s vocation is to remain a world leader in the private development of infrastructures. And it will remain so in the future.

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