Bumpy rides, 1,400 complaints of potholes, numerous deaths and traffic snarls every monsoon. Is there a solution to this? Yes, the solution is concrete, literally and figuratively, say experts.
In the last two years, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has relaid approximately 580km (30%) of roads. Despite the work, the civic body has received more than 1,400 complaints of potholes since June, with some on roads that were repaired recently.
Experts and road engineers claim the solution is improving the quality of road construction, re- construction and repair. Ideally, a road needs to have four layers – the lowest layer of gravel, then the crushed stones, followed by sand and topmost layer of concrete or asphalt.
“Layering increases the capacity to absorb water, which in turn makes the road resistant to weather changes and traffic overload,” said BMC official, on condition of anonymity.
The 2015 road scam highlighted how inferior quality material was being used to make roads. It showed how the contractors inflated bills, without actually digging a road or removing the debris.
In Mumbai, most roads are made using asphalt or bitumen, which experts claim is part of the problem. Asphalt roads are not suitable for heavy vehicles, and can’t withstand heavy rain. The state public works department (PWD) recently blamed asphalt for the potholes on the Sion-Panvel highway.
Of the 1,900km of roads maintained by BMC, approximately 700km are concretised. “The shelf life of concrete roads is a minimum of 15-20 years, compared to five years for asphalt roads. While the construction cost is 1.2 to two times higher than asphalt, concrete roads score as they don’t develop potholes, despite the heavy vehicular traffic, change in weather conditions,” said SN Patankar, former road engineer with BMC. Examples of concrete roads are Marine Drive, stretches of Andheri-Kurla road, Babasaheb Ambedkar road in King’s Circle and Ghatkopar-Mankhurd link road.
Despite half the maintenance cost and higher shelf life, authorities don’t opt for concrete roads, stating all roads within city limits can’t be concretised. “Only roads that are 18-km-wide, with four or more lanes can be concretised. The second major problem is laying of utilities, which requires roads to be dug up. This can’t be done on concretised roads,” said Ajoy Mehta, municipal commissioner. “We can’t do anything about existing utilities. However, to not let the condition deteriorate further, BMC suspends reinstatement of trenches ahead of the monsoon. Trenching agencies have to submit the plan for the entire year in October to get permission.”
“Concretisation of roads in island city is easier, as utilities are beneath the footpath and haven’t crossed over to roads like suburbs,” said Patankar.