Abstract: The Development of the Modern Norwegian Road System, Compared to the Development of the Swedish and Danish Road Systems: The "Different" Road System—A Result of Path Dependence, Rent Seeking, and Weak Central Institutions?

Knut Boge


Long-term economic growth, as well as national innovation systems, are dependent on roads and other infrastructures. The trunk roads or arteries between the regions or provinces are the backbone of the transport infrastructures in most affluent Western industrialized countries. The Norwegian state has enjoyed significant budget surpluses during the last two decades as a result of its oil and gas exports. There are good reasons to believe that the Norwegian road system should be among the best in Europe. Despite the public wealth, however, Norway lacks a national trunk road system. The transportation costs are high. The number of casualties is also high, given Europe's lowest speed limits and a generally low traffic density. This contrasts with Sweden and Denmark, which faced serious economic problems from the mid-1970s, but prioritized the completion of trunk roads. This paper outlines a study of the development of the modern Norwegian road system, compared to the Swedish and Danish road systems. The emphasis is on the period after 1945—that is, from the emergence of mass motoring. Why have Norwegian politicians failed to prioritize the construction of trunk roads?