RC - The Netherlands, Floating roads

Short description: 

The Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management, a division of the Dutch Ministry of Transport and Public Works, has initiated a programme called 'Roads to the Future'. The 'floating road' is one component of this programme. The groundwater level is forecast to rise during decades to come, and the water containment is expected present serious challenges. A competition was therefore organised to generate ideas for floating roads. These roads could be used to provide access to a village cut off by flooding, or as a duplicate road alongside a bridge closed for maintenance.
The basic design is a system of easily linked standard units. The units for connecting the road to dry land are different from the standard ones and will be applicable in various situations. A moveable section which can be opened and closed hydraulically provides a 10 metre thoroughfare for water traffic has also been developed.
The design principles included standardisation, intelligent links and prefabrication. Aluminium was chosen as main material from the start because it is light in weight, requires little maintenance and is recyclable. The units can be transported to their destination by road. Flotation capability is achieved by box-like aluminium pontoons with polystyrene filling. The links between units are designed to provide acceptable stiffness. An aluminium safety rail is integrated into the edges of the units. The modules are prefabricated and are the size of a standard container. They can be removed or replaced easily. The border is shaped so that it acts as a breakwater. The road has been designed for driving at up to 80 kilometres per hour.

Implementation date: 
Various Locations
The Netherlands



Type(s) of Milu
Interweaving: use of the same space for different functions.

Layering: use of the third dimension of space. e.g. the underground

BLUE - water-systems and water related issues.


The Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management, a division of the Dutch Ministry of Transport and Public Works

Planning and design:

XX Architects, Delft
DHV Consultants


TNO Bouw

Lessons learned
Roads floating on groundwater save a lot of space and have a favourable impact on the environment, as they do not disturb natural groundwater flows. Their location below ground level means there is also less horizon pollution.
Particularly in low-lying clay and peat areas, which form a large part of the Netherlands, floating roads provide an alternative to traditional roads built on a sand foundation.
A single-carriageway road floating on groundwater is 20 metres wide, whereas a traditional road at one metre above ground level is 45 metres wide.
Other promising applications include temporary diversions where long-term maintenance is being carried out on bridges, tunnels or roads parallel to a river or canal. Floating roads also offer new opportunities for water management and nature development in overflow and retention areas.

Roads to the Future
An Innovation Programme of the Dutch Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management (RIJKSWATERSTAAT).