Fortune Magazine in a recent series of articles on China highlighted the massive amount of road building being undertaken, with 50,000 km of expressways built in the past decade. That is approximately two thirds of the length of the entire US Interstate system in 10 short years.
China currently has 79,000 km of expressways, and some 4.2 million kilometres of roads – more than double the length in 2002.
It is clear that China has undertaken a huge amount of infrastructure construction in the past decade. With another 300,000km of roads planned by 2015 and an annual spending of approximately USD$200 billion on road construction and upgrades the work isn’t finished yet.
What we know from infrastructure management practice, and from observing the upgrade and maintenance requirements building up on parts of the US Interstate system, is that China is now committed to an on-going program of road infrastructure management to maintain the service levels currently being established.
As the US Departments of Transportation have found, high levels of road replacement and upgrading can be challenging in the best of times, and more so in periods of fiscal constraint.
Whilst many decades away, the size of the coming road infrastructure management challenge for China will be massive, and will provide a very interesting challenge for China’s infrastructure managers and engineers to meet.