Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai inaugurated a 375-metre road in Indiranagar on Friday, constructed using the ‘rapid road word’ technology on a pilot basis.
“The white-topping will take a lot of time. Traffic has to be diverted, and it causes density. Once laid, it will be very difficult to break the white-topped roads in case of any problems,” Bommai said.
White topping is a process where the bituminous road or black-top roads are given a Portland Cement Concrete (PCC) overlay. The rapid road method involves pre-cast large cement blocks that are 20 feet long and 5 feet wide, placed together on a stretch.
As the rapid road method is expected to cost 30% more than the white-topping project, Bommai said the state government would consider the construction of rapid roads by using pre-cast technology only after examining its quality and rate.
“As an experiment, a 375-meter stretch rapid road has been laid out of 500 meters. I have come here to inspect the same and given several suggestions,” Bommai said.
“We need to run 20-tonne plus vehicles on this road continuously and then analyse it. I have sought a report on the impact on the road due to the movement of heavy vehicles, details of joints, the strength of tensile and other techniques. Ultimately, the work must be completed quickly, with good quality and cost-effectiveness,” the chief minister added.
Bengaluru has been facing the ire of citizens over its crumbling road infrastructure and rising accidents due to potholes.
According to the BBMP, rapid roads are pre-cast and need only three days to cover 1 km.
“Places where alternative roads are not available, rapid road construction is the only option,” a note issued by the BBMP said.
“White-topping roads, on the other hand, are cast at the site, which needs a minimum traffic diversion plan for 36 days/km,” it added.
The civic body said that while the lifespan of white-topping is 30 years, rapid roads will last for about 100 years. The project costs about ₹12,976 per cubic metre, 43% more than white-topping, which costs ₹9,076 per cubic metre, the BBMP said.
However, compared with the standard white topping method, rapid roads will cost much higher, about 40 to 43%.
Furthermore, the BBMP said that while shifting of utilities is needed for white-topping, pre-cast panels can be removed and replaced in rapid roads after repairing the underneath utilities in case of emergency.
Meanwhile, civic activist Sandeep Anirudhan questioned why the project cost of the rapid road works is higher when the process of manufacturing itself is centralised.
“If everything is manufactured in a factory and it is only installed on site, a huge amount of logistics and labour is saved. This should not only save time and effort but also save money. So, why is the BBMP hiking the price?” Anirudhan questioned.
Anirudhan said, more importantly, the civic body is unable to build regular bitumen asphalt roads properly due to a lack of accountability and implementation of the process.
“There is nothing wrong with Asphalt Bitumen technology. If the rest of the world builds it right and BBMP can’t, then there is something wrong with BBMP, not the technology,” Anirudhan said.
“If they can’t build a regular road, they can’t build this also. This is because the process, accountability, warranty and transparency are missing. Why is no warranty clause included in the contract? If there is a warranty and penalties built into the contract, no matter which technology is used, the road will be intact,” Anirudhan added.
Another civic activist, Kathyayini Chamaraj, said, “The asphalt roads cost one-tenth or less than that compared to the white-topped roads or rapid road works. It will last longer if laid properly. If residents monitor the laying of the roads, make sure it is as per the tender specifications, and if there is no 40% commission, the asphalted roads should be good enough.”
She said the contractors should be held accountable for the defect liability period instead of floating new tenders for potholes.
“Given our resources are so limited, we need to spend on better things. It is illogical. The cost will be huge if this has to be done across Bengaluru. The BBMP should also look at the state of slums, health, and anganwadis, among other priorities,” Chamaraj added.