Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Roads without fools

25 January 2013

Around 100 billion roubles will be invested in the construction of modern motorways in Russia. But how this huge sum of money can be spent rationally? There are a lot proposals but each of them conceals certain drawbacks. No guarantee that the allocated billions will be spent with the utmost effectiveness. Here is one example which may turn out to be unexpected for many people. Today the road construction in Russia is based on the standards adopted for sixties of the 20th century and the roads are designed only for 5-ton trucks. Now the motorways are overloaded with huge trucks including 40-ton vans which mercilessly mash and destroy outdated pavement. The roads in the leading countries are being constructed with focus on such heavyweight vehicles.

And there are dozens of similar examples. In general the situation with our road standards is really awful. Many of them are obsolete and there are no standards for pedestrian crossings at all. Thereby each performs in his own fashion and as hard as he can. Apparently the construction of thousands kilometers of new roads in Russia under such conditions is a mere waste of money. The country is in need of world-class roads and new road standards. They should be developed on up-to-date principles based on recent scientific achievements.

The launch of the “Innovative Roads” Federal pilot project is declared in Russia. It is carried out by the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation, the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies (RUSNANO), the Federal Road Agency and administrations of the Moscow city, the Republic of Tatarstan and the Ryazan Region. Ambitious goals are set: the increase of road service life in 3-5 times, reduction of energy consumption in 10-15 times, decrease of road facilities and fixtures weight in 3 times (bridges, protection barriers etc.). And the prime objective is to downsize the number of road accidents, severity of its consequences and death toll among drivers and pedestrians in times.

A road begins from its covering or “chemise” as experts say. It should provide durability of service life, reliable adhesion, resistance to water and chemical deicing reagents. And the scientists offer more than a dozen options.

The service life of roads will be increased in 3-5 times, the number of road crashes, severity of its consequences and fatalities among drivers and pedestrians will be downsized in times.

“For example, basalt or fiberglass wireworks and reinforcing rods added to concrete or asphalt mixtures prevent covering from fractures and destruction, push up endurance, improve adhesion and reduce vibration, - explained Mr. Alexander Naumov, coordinator of the project from the RUSNANO side. – “For it’s clear that basalt is three times stronger than steel and four times lighter, its service durability exceeds a hundred years. Today fibrous concrete is widely used and it improves the covering strength by 40-200 %, water-resistance - by 50%, adhesion - by 70 %. Geotextile coverings gain more and more popularity. They are put in layers as a pie and significantly upgrade almost all road performance specifications”.

So, there are many options and some even contradict to each other. What to choose? According to Mr. Naumov, it’s up to the customer to decide on the results of the tests.

The strange situation with traffic signs has emerged: “creative” russian amateur-gardeners adapted them as water tank lids and many signs were removed from the roads to their villa quarters. The case reminds the personage from the A.Chekhov’s “The Malefactor” story who could not understand why it was impossible to turn off nuts from railway tracks.

“At first we plan to undertake inventory of all traffic signs, - said Mr. Naumov. – Next step is to digitize each sign by putting an electronic mark on it. This will allow to take prompt countermeasures in case of emergency. But the most important thing is the “car-sign” intercommunication. There to the cars will be fitted with sensors to provide communication with different warning systems including traffic signs. So the drivers can be warned in advance about speed limits, abrupt turns, etc. Such information will surely get to drivers.

The authors of the project aim at reducing energy consumption in 15 times. Energy-saving lamps including light-emitting diodes will be applied in traffic lights and for highway lighting with autonomous power supply using solar energy. Besides the road lighting switch on/off will be carried out by an intelligent transport system depending on the natural light level.

By the way, the lamp-posts and all road infrastructure elements in general will undergo profound changes. Nowadays a car colliding at high speed with a concrete or metal obstacle turns into a pile of twisted wreckage. But similar road fixtures made of composite materials will amortize and reduce the impact force. So the aftermath of the collision will be less grave.

An intelligent transport system (ITS) is certainly the heart of the project. It is designed to provide road traffic management, reduce traffic jams to a minimum and downsize the number of road accidents. Accurate information is the basis of an intelligent road. Accordingly a set of different sensors will be installed along the highways to ensure constant control of the road situation and provide traffic and travel information for road users in due time. And of course the all-seeing GLONASS system will be widely employed.

It’s clear that the ITS’ prime function is to improve transportation. All information on road traffic will be gathered and processed in the ITS Control Center to achieve smooth city traffic flows and traffic light sequencing. Moreover, the ITS will offer drivers the most favorable alternative routes in case of an accident, traffic congestion, road works or other unexpected situations, etc. Such information will be transmitted to the vehicle on-board intelligent system or will be available on the indicator boards located along the motorway.

“The ITS can also provide vehicle identification through automatic number plate recognition to trace the cars without regular check-up, insurance, or being searched for etc., - said Mr. Naumov. “Besides the system will warn drivers about all arising hazards, for example, weather deterioration, fog, rain, snowfall or ice-slick. Special deicing spray devices controlled by the ITS will be installed along the motorways as well”.

The concept of the “Innovative roads” project has been already worked out. Now the authors are busy preparing the performance specification and technical requirement for a competition on the best projects to be announced soon. The winners will be granted the right to implement their projects at three locations in 2013: the road sections in the Republic of Tatarstan, the Ryazan Region and in Moscow. After summing up the outcomes of the pilot projects the next stage is to follow – the outreach of the best technological and engineering solutions.

Reference from "Rossiyskaya Gazeta"

To recover from the Great Depression the USA staked on road construction declaring it a national priority program. Millions of people were engaged and constructed a total of180,000 kmof motorways. The most famous highway is Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road. By 1938 it became the longest highway with hard covering in the world (its length is 3,800 km). Only 20 years after it was surpassed by the Trans-Canada Highway (7,000 km) followed by the Pan-American Highway (16,000 km). In Russia the highway from Moscow to Vladivostok measuring about 9,000 km in total length is being constructed now.

Rossiyskaya Gazeta



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