In the absence of significant inland waterways, and with a deficient rail network (see also railways), roads have come to carry the bulk of all land-based passenger and freight traffic in Spain. Across the system the quality of road connection varies from unsurfaced tracks to motorways, endowing different locations with different degrees of accessibility, so influencing the attraction of locations for settlement and economic development. Investment in the road infrastructure, therefore, by reducing unit transport costs has been seen as a necessary, if not a sufficient, requirement for development. Hence, from the early 1980s onwards there was an enormous investment in new roads, including the construction of a motorway system (see also autopistas). The public road network comprises those main roads carrying international traffic and linking the different regions of the country, which are the responsibility of the state (labelled as N roads, nacionales, forming the Red de Interés General del Estado —National Interest Network); those main roads providing high volume traffic movements within regions, which are the responsibility of the regions (labelled with the prefix of the region); those roads providing links within each province, which are the responsibility of the provincial authorities (labelled C roads, comarcales); and those local roads within municipalities which are the responsibility of the town councils. In addition, various public agencies have built road systems which are their responsibility (such as the Water Authorities and Environ-mental Agencies). High volume and high speed routes are provided by highways (autovías) and motorways (autopistas), the latter normally requiring the payment of tolls. Where roads form links in the European-wide system they are labelled as E roads. At the time of Franco's death in 1975, there were only 1,134 km of highway and motorway and neither Madrid nor Barcelona had motorway connections. Road construction increased during the 1980s, guided by the First National Road Plan (1984–91) and the plans of the regional governments, and supported by co-financing from the European Community. The First National Road Plan emphasized the radial network based on Madrid, while regional plans concentrated on improving intra-regional connectivity. Cuts in public finance delayed completion of the Plan, but by the mid-1990s road systems throughout the country had been substantially improved, the network of motorways and highways having increased from 2,300 km in 1984 to 5,800 km (MOPTMA 1994). Under the Second National Road Plan (1993– 9) the priority shifted to linking all provincial capitals by high capacity roads and improving urban access roads to the motorway system. This second plan was also designed to fit within a broader National Infrastructure Plan (Plan Director de Infraestructuras, 1993–2007). As with the First Plan, restraints on public expenditure delayed implementation and forced a review of how investment in roads should be financed, with a view to a greater private sector participation. Road building in Spain is made more difficult by the mountainous topography of many areas. Around the coast, where there is a high density of population and hence a large volume of traffic (swollen in summer by tourists), land for roadbuilding is also limited in availability and very expensive. As a result road construction is exceptionally costly.
   Apart from cost, two further considerations have gained importance in relation to investment in roads: the environmental impact of road construction and the wisdom of further investment in the light of increasing road traffic congestion as the volume of road traffic rises. Traffic congestion, especially in towns and on urban motorways, is coupled with growing concerns over air pollution. Despite these considerations, roads will continue to provide the dominant passenger and freight transport infrastructure in Spain.
   See also: transport
   - MOPTMA (1994) Plan Director de Infraestructuras, 1993-2007, 2nd edn, Madrid (MOPTA is the Ministerio de Obras Públicas, Transportes y Medio Ambiente—the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Environment).
   - Tamames, R. Estructura económica de España, Madrid: Alianza Editorial (a discussion of the development of roads and road policy is available in each of the editions).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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