ASCCIP Road Network

The Government of India (GoI), on behalf of Government of Assam (GoA) has applied for financing from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) toward the cost of Assam SASEC Corridor Connectivity Improvement Project (ASCCIP) for improvement and upgradation of State Highways (SH) and Major District Roads (MDR) of about 312 km. The project cost is USD 375 million with a loan amount of USD 300 million. There are 6 no. of project roads for improvement and upgradation which are in Lower Assam, Barak Valley and Hills region. The Project consists of 3 components:

Project development objective

  • To enhance the road transportation in Assam by assisting the PWRD to build sustainable infrastructure for achieving State’s Vision and Sustainable Development Goals.

The PWRD has identified about 1800 km of priority SH & MDR based on the Road Asset management System for improvement under Asom Mala. The State Government is allocating resources from its budget, but at the same time it is also looking mobilizing additional resources through Externally Aided Projects. “Value for Money” principle would be used as strategic tool for resource allocation decisions and as a criterion for monitoring and evaluation. The State is already preparing the Assam Road Network Improvement Project for improvement of about 500 km of priority roads. However, the State still requires about USD 800 million funding to improve about 1000 km of presently identified SH & MDRs.

The State of Assam and its institutions dealing with road infrastructure development have enough capacities to implement the envisaged programme for improving the identified SH & MDRs. While the State has sufficient material resources, it also has the capacity to attract resourceful contractors from outside to meet up the eventuality of construction industry constraints. Implementation arrangements involving deployment of project management consultants to manage projects; supervision consultants to supervise works contracts; and adequate individual specialists from different fields of highway engineering deployed in the project management unit; along with other consultants for institutional development, etc will ensure that implementation of projects does not suffer capacity constraints.

The State of Assam has a large network of state roads primarily managed by Assam Public Works Roads Department (PWRD). PWRD has about 7,419 km of secondary roads comprising of State Highways (SH) and Major District Roads (MDR), and urban and rural roads comprising of about 46,000 km. The secondary network of SH and MDR provides vital transportation needs of the State and also provides connectivity to all towns, block HQs, and important places of the state and linking them with National Highways. To preserve and improve such a large network in a serviceable condition is a challenging task for the state. The region is geographically dispersed and experiences a long rainy season thereby submerging a considerable part of network. A network level data on SH and MDR collected recently as part of the Road Asset Management System (RAMS) does not portray a very good picture of the secondary network.

  • More than 90% of the roads have very less (< 2 year) remaining life and are not maintainable at any cost. They have to be reconstructed/ rehabilitated with major enhancement in drainage.
  • Nearly 80% of roads have narrow road width i.e. less than 7m. About 14% is unpaved, of which around 6% (389 km) is inaccessible/non-motorable.
  • The average pavement thickness is very less i.e. about 10 inches or 290mm, which is barely adequate to hold the commercial traffic loading observed on these roads.
  • Most of the roads are carrying heavy axle-loads beyond prescribed limit, thereby depleting the pavement life at a faster rate. Average vehicle damage factor for the network is more than 4, which higher general norm of 3.5 suggested by Indian Roads Congress. In some high commercial trafficked roads, a high vehicle damage factor (VDF) of 11.16 is observed.
  • Improper and inadequate wearing courses such as Semi-Dense Bituminous Concrete (SDBC) and thin Premix carpet (PC) make the surface porous in nature. Due to high precipitation and heavy axle-loads, these surfaces barely last for only two to three years. Poor drainage facility makes the situation worse.
  • More than 90% of the roads do not have any drainage and more than 60% of the road length has built-up sections where permanent drains are necessary.
  • Assam being flood prone, significant sections of roads are overtopped, thereby leading to early removal of pavement or wearing course.
  • Only 11% of the road network are smooth or of good riding quality (IRI < 4m/km) and about 30% of roads are failed or in non-motorable state.
  • Nearly 121 bridges are semi-permanent which has to be converted to RCC and about 49 bridges are in poor which needs immediate attention.

The road network traffic demand has increased considerably since the last decade. Between 2001 and 2011 the Assam population grew by around 17%, while during the same period of time the number of motor vehicles on Assam roads is estimated to have grown by 160% (16% per year) and the road network has grown by around 4% per year. 33% of present network needs capacity augmentation/ widening. It is expected to increase to 46% in 3 years and 61% in 10 years. To maintain the entire network at the desired level of service, adequate and timely provision of funds is a requisite and needs to be holistically planned and budgeted in advance. Scientific planning is required considering a longer time considering life of the pavement and maintenance required at every stage. A sound prediction model that considers pavement characteristics and anticipated traffic demand for identifying necessary maintenance and rehabilitation requirements for the future years is also a necessity. Without this knowledge, advance planning, optimal funding and execution at site, this vast road network will soon lose its asset value and fail to meet the traffic demand. To address this situation, the PWRD has developed a computerised Road Asset Management System (RAMS) for effectively managing the state road network. The RAMS consists of web-GIS based software applications bundled with layers of engineering and economic criteria, and a relational database with tools to input, store & analyze road network and structures inventory, condition and traffic data. RAMS uses latest inventory, condition and roughness data collected using reliable and state-of-the art automated survey vehicle fitted with laser, high-resolution camera and DGPS. Additionally, latest information on pavement structure, strength and traffic volume count is used to check the competence of the pavement to withstand the present as well as future traffic requirements. The RAMS application has been used to rationalize and aid in decision making for planning / programming road maintenance and rehabilitation programme by estimating long-term (15 year) fund requirements by incorporating Assam’s 15 year Vision and the Sustainable Development Strategy (SDG) goals. Benchmarks in several parameters such as road accessibility, road condition, road utilisation are also established to monitor the outcome of the funding to preserve the road assets at an acceptable service level, thereby safeguarding the asset value. In order to rehabilitate and preserve the road network in desired condition, a robust network management strategy is prepared is based on sound analysis of current data on road and traffic. This strategy aims to address the present situation as follows:

  • Re-construction, with or without widening, shall be a priority as most road pavements have less than 2 years remaining life and lacks drainage
  • Reconstruct existing pavements as long-lasting pavements
  • Base and sub-base for 40 years, bituminous course for ≥ 10 years
  • Proper drainage on both sides - Design for high rainfall and no submergence
  • Pavements with long remaining life (≥ 10 years) should be prudently maintained to preserve them. Interim rehabilitation shall be taken up for poor condition roads
  • Bituminous pavements shall be with DBM & BC, not with BM & SDBC. Polymer Modified Bitumen (PMB) shall be used for surface course to counter high rainfall
  • Structurally damaged (very poor) shall be rehabilitated immediately. Assess condition of bridges at least once a year and prioritize for repair
  • Roads selected under different schemes for maintenance, reconstruction, rehabilitation, etc shall be based on outputs from RAMS

As part of improving the institutional arrangements, the State has established the Assam Road Maintenance Fund (ARMF) under the Assam State Road Board (ASRB). It is strengthening the ASRB to has established to (a) reposition ASRB to function as an Apex Body in the road sector of Assam through Legislation/Act; (b) redefine its business processes to provide strategic direction to road sector based on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) oriented planning process, undertake high level monitoring based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and generation of possible non-budgetary sources of fund; and (c) restructure its present organizational form to imbibe technical competence for policy, planning and monitoring for the sector and strengthening it to achieve the 3 redefined functions. The PWRD’s annual maintenance budget has increased from 2016-17 by about 100% to Rs. 2000 crore for 3 years. The capital budget for 2019-20 is Rs. 5675 crore. It has allocated Rs. 500 crore for Assam Mala the financial year 2019-20. The fiscal scenario of the state has improved considerably in the last few years and presently possesses sufficient capacity to undertake externally aided projects. Concurrently, the Government of Assam is also planning to increase its annual budget considering development of road infrastructure directly linked to overall development of the state. Given the State funding scenario and exigency, external borrowing from Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is proposed to be leveraged in the form of an Externally Aided Project (EAP) to support Assam Mala and State’s vision to develop the secondary road network of Assam through.