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Assessment and Rehabilitation of Central European Highway Structures

The overall goal of the proposed project is to develop ways of raising the standard of highway structures in the new Member States and Central and Eastern European Countries to the level necessary for their full economic integration into the EU and for the future development of the Union.

Tags: Road


Since 1 May 2004, the European Union road network, and accordingly the stock of highway structures, has increased significantly. Ten new Member States have brought nearly 924 500 kilometres of roads into the European network. These countries have huge numbers of highway structures, which, mainly due to their history, do not constitute a solid and trouble-free infrastructure. Structures have been affected by a lack of maintenance, regular overloading and even by the use of poor quality materials for construction. In the near future, the same structures have to face increasing volume and weight of traffic and will therefore have to be reliably assessed and, if necessary, improved or replaced. All these processes will take time and have to be realised in a sustainable way for the economy, for society and for the environment. No doubt the majority of European road infrastructures have reached an age where improvement costs (several billion euros annually) constitute a major part of infrastructure spending. This is hindering the development of the network by absorbing much-needed funds. This project will develop new construction concepts for conservation (assessment, improvement and preventative maintenance) of highway structures.


The overall goal of the project is to reduce the gap in the standard of highway infrastructure between Central and Eastern European Countries (CEEC) – particularly new Member States – and the rest of the EU. This key problem will be addressed by a combined approach:

  • developing more appropriate tools and procedures to avoid unnecessary interventions (repairs/replacements) in structures and prevent the development of corrosion by simpler and less expensive techniques
  • implement faster, more cost-effective and longer lasting repair or strengthening techniques of sub-standard and unsafe bridges
  • aggressive dissemination of results and general best practice to the key stakeholders.
  • Another important objective of this project is to help society and politicians to understand the need for sustainable maintenance of their road networks, together with their engineering infrastructure, and to help managers of infrastructure to spend their resources in a more optimal way.

Description of work

To achieve its scientific and technological objectives, this project focuses on structural assessment and monitoring strategies to prevent deterioration and optimum improvement of highway structures by complementary techniques. It is organised in four technical work packages (WP), numbered 2-5, with the following conceptual approach:

WP2: optimise the use of existing infrastructure through better safety assessment and monitoring procedures which will avoid interventions, i.e. avoid unnecessarily replacing or improving structures that are in fact perfectly safe.

WP3: monitor and prevent corrosion of existing reinforcement and develop innovative new reinforcement materials that are highly resistant to corrosion.

WP4: strengthen the infrastructure of bridges by means of bonded reinforcements

WP5: harden highway structures with ultra high performance fibre-reinforced concretes applied in severely exposed zones to dramatically increase their durability.


There are currently great disparities in the transport infrastructure between the new Member States and Central and Eastern European Countries on the one side and the EU-15 on the other. A key part of addressing the economic imbalances within the enlarged Union consists of bringing the transport infrastructure in the new Member States up to a level that will improve durability of existing highway structures and accommodate higher traffic loads and densities without jeopardising their structural safety. Although replacement of the most severely deteriorated structures will still be necessary, ARCHES will provide the means to get more from existing bridges. The project will develop more efficient assessment techniques, new strategies to prevent/monitor the influence of overload, and new and improved repair techniques. As a result, the new Member States and Central and Eastern European Countries will obtain tools to spend their limited maintenance resources in a more optimal way. Better assessment and less disruptive repair techniques will prevent excessive and unnecessary repair or demolition of bridges. This will:

  • reduce energy consumption for cement production
  • reduce production of demolition waste
  • reduce traffic delays and, consequently, fuel consumption
  • reduce other adverse impacts on the environment (noise, air pollution).
  • In a practical sense, the end users will obtain several guidelines on damage assessment and the repair of structures.