Report on administrative categories of roads examines classification criteria

Ministry of Transport and Communications
Publication date 23.1.2024 8.55 | Published in English on 26.1.2024 at 14.17
Press release
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Photo: Juha Tuomi/LVM

The Ministry of Transport and Communications published a report on the administrative categories of roads on 23 January 2024. The report examines the concepts guiding the classification, the practical application of the concepts and the challenges in defining and changing the categories. The study was carried out by Wuutis.


This study was conducted to respond to the review needs arising from the amendments made to the Act on the Transport System and Highways in 2018. The report provides recommendations for further measures. 


The administrative classification of roads indicates the road ownership and responsibility for the road maintenance. There are three administrative categories of roads:

1. highways owned by the state
2. streets owned by municipalities 
3. private roads owned by private persons.

The report identifies a number of challenges in changing these administrative categories. The report recommends, for example, that common guidelines for processes should be improved and points out that making changes to administrative categories requires funding.

Concepts of general and local traffic guide road classification

The concepts guiding the administrative categories of roads and their changes are local traffic and general traffic. Their definitions provide the criteria for identifying when the category of a road should be changed. 

General traffic is characterised by the extent and unlimited nature of road users. In other words, the road is used regularly by a large number of people, it has both long-distance traffic and regional traffic, and it is connected to a transport node. The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency assesses the need for general traffic by examining regular passenger and freight traffic, the road's position in the road network, and seasonal traffic.

Local traffic refers to short-distance traffic. When a road is used by local traffic, it should be classified as a street. Traffic is mainly private if the road only serves the properties in its immediate area of impact.

According to the report, the definitions of these concepts are usually precise enough to identify the need to change the road category. In practice, however, accurate criteria are needed to define the type of traffic. Due to regional differences, the criteria cannot be the same everywhere. According to the report, however, common guidelines would promote more transparent definitions. For example, the quality of the traffic should be assessed when defining local traffic. 

Administrative categories change slowly

According to the report, changing the administrative category of a roads takes time and requires a process and funding. As a rule, a change will be implemented through an engineering plan or a street management decision. Changes are often made as part of other amendments, for example to the local detailed plan. According to the report, there are some regional differences in identifying the need to change a road category.

The report presents options for discontinuing highways, updating outdated plans and expediating road management decisions. Of these, discontinuing a highway is the responsibility of the administrative branch of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The updating of the National Transport System Plan (Transport 12) will facilitate a discussion on the extent of the highway network in the national transport system and provide a chance to outline further measures.

Transport 12 in the background

Adopted in 2021, the Transport 12 Plan aims to update the functional categories of highways, as required by the Act on the Transport System and Highways, to meet current needs and the objectives of the Plan.

The work to update the Transport 12 Plan began in autumn 2023.

Next steps

The results of the study will contribute to the updating of the Transport 12 Plan. The report will also be used in any future legislative projects.

The report recommends several further measures, which can be examined during the updating of the Transport 12 Plan.


Satu Kaskinen, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 342044, [email protected]

Kaisa Kuukasjärvi, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 342 030, [email protected] (Transport 12 Plan)