Change of rhythm in street works – Helsinki starts comprehensive project to reduce harmful effects caused by road works

Uutta Helsinkiä

Helsinki is a City in development, with thousands of street works of different sizes carried out every year. In the most functional City in the world, the street works must be performed in a way which causes as few disturbances as possible to the everyday lives of the city residents. The City starts a wide-ranging project, the objective of which is to produce systemic and cultural changes that considerably reduce the harmful effects caused by street works to the city residents.

The streets of Helsinki are built and improved at an unforeseen pace. The number of large projects is increasing and there will be several significant street construction sites in the inner city every year. In many places, the streets and the municipal engineering under them are due a complete renovation. The City and its partners are also investing in public transport, the improvement of conditions for bicycling and walking and development of new housing areas.

In addition to the larger repair works, every year there are thousands of other excavation works on the streets of the City and it is often necessary to claim street areas for work site use.

"We are faced with considerable challenges in terms of the disturbances caused by street works to the city residents. These pertain to, for example, scheduling, excessive lead-times, work-related disturbances and work site conditions and communications", describes Mayor JanVapaavuori

Several measures will be applied in order to achieve a change of rhythm in the street works. The goal of the project is to find some systemic and cultural changes through which the situation can be improved permanently. As a part of the project, the City has established a research project with the Aalto University where the aim is to figure out the current state of the street projects and their economic effects from the perspective of, for example, residents and companies.

"When the current state and the best domestic and foreign operating models have been described, we will develop a specific operating model for Helsinki to be trialled in two street objects, which will be defined in the first phase of the project. In these, we are looking for ways to speed up the work by decreasing lead-times, slashing redundant functions and increasing the foreseeability", says Professor Olli Seppänen at the Aalto University Department of Civil Engineering, who is in charge of the research project.

The first students from Aalto University have already started with the observations at a construction site on Mechelininkatu. In the future, the team will be looking to utilise, for example, drones and satellite data, which can provide extensive aerial data views of how the work site advances, even simultaneously from several work sites if needed.

The wholestreet works chain from procurement to communication to be improved

The City has conducted development work for a long time and some gains have been achieved, but now the whole organisation of the street works will be observed from a systemic point of view. Individual actions have not solved the general problem.

The process behind the entire City's street works from programming to implementation will be scrutinised using lean thinking. Lean thinking plays an important role in Aalto University's research project as well, when the team tries to come up with solutions for cutting down the lead-times in street projects considerably.

The objective is, among other things, to develop the procurement procedures related to the contracts and affect the work planning of the contractors, elevate the quality of the traffic arrangements and increase the impact of the supervision and further a better dialogue between the parties on a joint work site. For example, the current interlinking of contracts has made the street works very sensitive to disturbances and the entire work site may be halted due to some detail. The City's ambition concerning the impact of reducing the harm caused by street works must also be clarified to the contractors and the dialogue between the parties must be increased considerably.

"In the invitations to tender, we have already made demands concerning accelerated schedules and longer daily working hours. Next year, a large project is the regeneration of Hämeentie and for that we have had a market dialogue with the contractors and the project has advanced to the competitive bidding phase. The goal is to find better ways of implementing an object of this size and complexity", says Executive Director Mikko Aho.

In the future, it is also possible that projects are implemented using the alliance model. The communications in street projects will also be made with increased anticipation and the dialogue with the residents will be intensified during the work phase.

"The streamlining of street works makes up a big part of my mission to make Helsinki the most functional City in the world, but on the other hand, it is just one example of how the City can be made agile and functional. We need to involve the best professionals and here I hope that we can attract a lot of private actors as sparring partners to the City. A new operating model is developed at the workshops arranged by the Aalto University. All actors in the field are welcome to participate in this work", says Vapaavuori.

The details of how the project will proceed and the essential challenges identified in the first phase will be the focus of a dialogue at an event organised for the actors in the field in January 2019.


  • In 2018, the City of Helsinki invests around €140 million in the construction and renovation of streets and thoroughfares. 
  • Around 50 % of the City's street investments consist of new construction in central project areas, such as Jätkäsaari, Kalasatama, Pasila and Kruunuvuorenranta. The share of other new construction is around 15 % and the share of street renovations around 30–35 %. The share of the projects implemented jointly with the Government (Finnish Transport Agency) varies annually.
  • There are currently around 100 street projects per year in the planning phase and around 200–300 projects per year in the construction phase. In addition to this, there are hundreds of smaller works such as small repairs and surfacing works.
  • In the City's own street projects, priority is given to projects aimed at furthering the housing production, realisation of the network plan for bicycle traffic in the inner city and public transport development projects.
  • However, the biggest contracts that disturb everyday life the most are the complete street renovations in the dense street space. These projects are implemented using the YKT-model (joint municipal engineering work site) together with, e.g.  Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY, Helen and the telecom operators.
  • In addition to the City, there are numerous others performing street works. In 2017, the City granted 6,400 licences for different kinds of works on streets and in parks.