Concrete can be used for both the road surface and the base layers. Concrete pavements have been used for many years in Europe, and were very common until the 1950s. The subsequent preference for asphalt in many countries can be attributed to low initial costs and abundant bitumen supply due to large-scale oil refining.
Concrete pavements have long been valued for their durability and low maintenance, and it’s easy to see how this translates into clear environmental benefits today. Concrete pavement benefits span the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental.
Regarding the social pillar, concrete prevents tunnel fires by not burning. In fact, fire departments advise using concrete in road tunnels. Concrete roads do not form ruts, reducing the risk of aquaplaning.
Clearly, there are economic gains. Because of their durability, concrete pavements have lower life-cycle costs. Moreover, their bright color saves street lighting.
Finally, the long lifespan of concrete pavements is good for the environment. Even more impressive, concrete pavements can reduce vehicle emissions! Concrete roads can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 1000-4000 tonnes over 30 years due to their stiffness, which reduces rolling resistance of heavy vehicles.
Concrete road pavements may be making a comeback. Road authorities are reawakening to the benefits of concrete. In Poland, for example, 1 380 km of concrete expressways are being built over the next few years. Because PPPs require private concessionaires to design, finance, and maintain roads for 25 or 35 years, long-lasting concrete is the obvious choice.
Concrete’s growing use in road pavements may have unexpected economic benefits. A recent US study shows how jurisdictions with healthy competition in the pavement sector have lower prices and thus better spending efficiency for road authorities. Specifying concrete pavements saves taxpayers money!
Concrete’s sustainability benefits are clear, and they will be shared by citizens, governments, and the environment. Concrete roads are the future.