Construction of Rural Roads

J. Amsler

Access roads are generally the first infrastructural features to be installed in a rural or remote area. Such roads are designed to meet the needs of agriculture or forestry management. It is usually difficult to predict how an area will be developed. This will depend on several factors:

• the area's attractiveness for nonagricultural and nonforestry activities (tourism, residential use and leisure activities, quarrying, landfills, commercial fishing, transportation facilities, and so on);

• activities of the resident population (interest in the marketing of advantages, amenities);

• political planning preferences oriented either toward protection or utilization (landscape planning);

• natural physical requirements, including danger zones (avalanches, landslides, floods, etc.), water protection zones, zones with few human activities, species diversity (occurrence of rare species).

In areas where agricultural and forestry activities remain dominant, rural roads usually manage to satisfy the requirements for a number of decades. If, on the other hand, an area is developed for tourism (e.g., winter sports) or for quarrying (heavy transport), the access requirements will increase dramatically. In such cases, the existing roads have to be widened, reinforced, made safer for traffic, or rebuilt entirely, depending on the extent of the new requirements.

In several countries, minor roads are built by private individuals or cooperatives. Such roads probably receive state subsidies but must themselves pay for the upkeep, financing this with the help of the users and, where one exists, through a cooperative. However, it should be clear that, in the case of changed requirements, a new maintenance model will be necessary.

In cases where the planning requirements are to be determined as part of a political process prior to opening an area to a variety of activities, attention also must be paid to such questions as the ownership and the responsibility for operating and maintaining the roads concerned. It may be appropriate to take these roads into public ownership.

Therefore, it must be concluded that the concept of minor rural roads is not a clear-cut one, which makes it more difficult to prescribe general guidelines for their construction. The following guidelines apply only to roads with a width of 3.0-4.0 m for single-track roads and 5.0-6.0 m for two-track roads with a layout of 100,000 to 150,000 standard single-axle loads (8.2 t). See Table 3.7 for definitions of technical terms.

It is particularly worth noting that, where paths and roads have been well laid out, with appropriate geometry, they generally are easy to adapt to more demanding requirements. However, steeper gradients and the crossing of sliding areas in particular represent almost insurmountable obstacles to enlargement. It is difficult to alter a gradient once it has been laid out.

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