Picking the right treatment is essential for making the best use of our highways budget to keep the roads in the best condition possible.
The biggest enemies of road condition are time and water. Over time, a newly laid road will lose its flexibility and start to become brittle. Once this happens, traffic, particularly heavy traffic, can cause cracks to appear in the surface. This allows water to seep through and undermine the road, leading to the formation of potholes and other defects. Very cold or wet weather speeds up this process, which is why there are often more potholes at the end of winter.
There are four main types of treatment:
- Surface dressing. A layer of bitumen is spread on an existing surface. Chippings are then spread on the surface and rolled in. Over the next few days, traffic on the newly surface dressed road beds the chippings into the surface. Importantly, surface dressing re-seals the surface against both cracking and water. It improves the surface texture and is quick to lay, minimising road closures and disruption for the public. It can last around 10 years under normal use, can be re-dressed up to 3 times, and at around £3 - £5 per square metre, it is the most cost effective way of maintaining the road network.
- Resurfacing. We take the top surface layer off a road that is structurally sound, and replace it with a new surface. This type of treatment is about five times more expensive than surface dressing. A newly resurfaced road can last up to 20 years, however, we will surface dress it before it reaches that age to prolong its lifetime. This explains why we often surface dress a road that looks in otherwise good condition.
- Reconstruction. Reconstruction is required when a length of road has deteriorated to a point where we can neither surface dress nor resurface it. Reconstruction consists of digging down to repair or replace the foundation layers of the road and finally resurfacing it. As with resurfacing, a reconstructed road can last up to 20 years, but will be surfaced dressed before then. At around 15 times the cost of surface dressing, this is a very expensive treatment which can also cause a lot of disruption.
- Patched repairs. We often apply patching to a road that is largely good but has some problems. This is similar to filling in potholes, but is better value as it takes place on a length of road, not just a single location. Patching often enables the road to then be surfaced dressed, which further extends its life.