Emissions reductions

A simple, effective solution for reducing emissions: improving road quality

30 of March of 2022

Electric cars, low-emission zones, and shared vehicles. The world has embarked on a race to find the most efficient way to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) and other transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. Until now, though, no special attention had been paid to a very simple method: improving the quality of asphalt pavement.

Having roads in good conditions can help optimize vehicle efficiency and thus reduce their CO2 emissions. This solution has many other positive effects: it improves drivers’ comfort, increases safety, and reduces road noise levels, for a few examples. It also goes hand in hand with Ferrovial’s objectives and values.

The value of maintenance

Hundreds, thousands, or even millions of vehicles travel on the roads of the world every day. So it’s no surprise that most of the CO2 emissions associated with the life cycle of these roads are related to their use, not their construction.

According to the European Concrete Paving Association’s (EUPAVE) study, ‘Road Pavement Industries Highlight Huge CO2 Savings Offered by Maintaining and Upgrading Roads,’ CO2 emissions associated with a roadway’s construction and maintenance account for about 1% of its total life cycle. For those that experience heavy traffic, this figure may be even lower.

The vast remainder is determined by the emissions from vehicles that travel on them. A road’s environmental impact is also closely related to the surface regularity and the quality of its pavement. When there are irregularities in the flatness, grooves, potholes, and damaged seals, among other problems, vehicles are less efficient and generate more CO2 emissions to travel the same distance.

Smooth, well-maintained pavements therefore contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in road transportation. This is particularly significant when it comes to heavy vehicles: a two-year study in Nevada (the U.S.) found that, after pavement was renovated, trucks consumed up to 4.5% less fuel.

This means that regular road maintenance is the first major step towards reducing emissions in the sector and creating more environmentally friendly infrastructure. In the European Union, upgrading two-thirds of the area’s roads could prevent the emission of up to 28 million tons of CO2 each year. This would be the same as replacing six million conventional vehicles with zero-emission models.

Solutions in asphalt bitumen

The options to mitigate the environmental impact of roads through asphalt don’t end there: there are also other options to reduce emissions in their construction and maintenance. These center on the 1% that doesn’t have to do with the road’s use.

One of these ways is reducing the manufacturing temperature of the agglomerate. Typically, production processes at asphalt plants reach temperatures of up to 150°C. New techniques adopted by Ditecpesa, a leader in asphalt products and pavements, have managed to reduce them to 40°C, which helps mitigate greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

These types of solutions are crucial for Ferrovial, which carries out periodic reviews so that its large infrastructure projects have the best possible road surface. The company’s work therefore contributes to reducing the amount of emissions from all cars traveling on its roads and highways in different countries around the world.

Maintaining and ensuring good asphalt pavement on roads (which can be quantified by values such as IRI and CRT) has a significant positive impact. This increases passenger safety, improves air quality, and reduces the noise generated by vehicles. Having a stable, well-kept road surface also impacts vehicle maintenance and prevents wear and tear. In the long term, it also helps reduce the costs of maintaining and rebuilding the roads themselves. It goes without saying, all of this has financial benefits.

Another major advantage of this solution is that there is no need to develop technologies or methods to implement it. While new ways to manufacture electric vehicles or reduce CO2 emissions are being explored through technology, keeping our roads in good condition has always been there and always will be.

For Ferrovial, committing to road maintenance is a great opportunity to reduce the environmental impact of the infrastructure and transportation sector and therefore contribute to maintaining a healthier, more sustainable world.

Asphalt Facts

Surface Characteristics of Roadways: International Research and Technologies – W. E. Meyer – Google Books

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