Worst Spring Thaw in 20 Years Leaves Finland’s Unpaved Roads In Dire Need of Repairs

In Roads, Soil Stabilization, Soil-Sement® by Frank Elswick

Drivers in Finland are still dealing with the fallout from a harsh spring thaw, which inflicted major damage on its extensive network of unpaved roads.

Winter driving can be a challenge in Finland — to say the least. With heavy ice covering roads from October to April, Finnish drivers must practice extreme patience and employ exceptional snow tires — to navigate their winter wonderland.

Unfortunately, the arrival of spring doesn’t always signal an end to drivers’ woes — frost heaving and torrential runoff from melted snow can leave roads in even worse condition. Such was the case this year, where a brutal spring thaw has left Finnish motorists wishing they could go back to the days when snowdrifts and black ice were their primary obstacles on the road.

Water Damage

Throughout Finland’s long winters, temperatures regularly fluctuate above and below the freezing point, leaving its 27,000+ kilometers of gravel roads to absorb meltwater and then form thick layers of ice.

On an annual basis, the arrival of spring brings a rapid thaw, which further saturates gravel roadways with meltwater runoff. This year, abnormally high levels of precipitation over the winter and a particularly rapid spring warming have made this year’s thaw especially destructive. Finnish news outlet Yle reported that the spring thaw was so extreme, it had actually damaged the structural integrity of many of Finland’s gravel roads.

The reason? Frost heaving, a process in which saturated soil freezes and expands, in turn producing cracks and ruts in the roadbed. Rutted roadbeds are not particularly kind to your average family sedan, with rims, tires, and suspension systems bearing most of the burden, which manifests as accelerated mechanical wear, and, ultimately, expensive trips to the auto shop.

These substandard road conditions are inconvenient at best and dangerous at worst. And unlike the winter’s yearly freeze, spring’s water damage doesn’t fade away with the seasons.

Government Response

For its part, the government of Finland has attempted to return damaged roadways back to acceptable conditions as quickly as possible. The Transport Agency dispatched repair crews to fix potholes and spread gravel in the most affected areas, but it’s starting to look like a losing battle.

Making matters worse, Finland’s road maintenance budget has remained level for more than a decade despite worsening road conditions. The result is a vast array of roads across the country with more and more structural damage and an ever-greater need for innovative maintenance solutions.

A Need for Unpaved Road Building Solutions

Finland no doubt faces a daunting challenge, as the annual thaw demands more maintenance than the budget currently seems to allow for. With an effective soil stabilization program, however, the country’s unpaved roads can become just as reliable as their paved counterparts.

For decades, Midwest Industrial Supply, Inc. has helped villages and townships around the world break the cycle of wear and tear on their unpaved roadways. Backed by our unique Soil-Sement® natural paving technology, our soil stabilization products work with the roadbed’s native soils to transform unpaved roads into surfaces as durable as paved asphalt. When properly executed, this approach can extend the working life of any unpaved road for years while greatly reducing maintenance costs.

If you’re experiencing difficulty maintaining your unpaved roadways, Midwest can work with you to develop a customized application plan that’s right for your community. No matter what condition your roads are in or what environmental challenges they face, Midwest can help you keep your unpaved roads in peak condition — in any season and any climate.

Frank is the sales unit manager of Midwest's road construction and natural paving markets.