Technologies for the advancement of the Road Sector

India’s goal of having an economy of $5 trillion involves infrastructure as a key component. It has been proven that the nation’s socioeconomic development and the rate of infrastructure expansion are strongly correlated, with highways serving as the nation’s most important productive arteries.

With each passing day, the importance of the road sector to a nation’s economy is being recognized more and more. The pace of road construction has evolved into the benchmark for India’s infrastructure development throughout time.

Sufficient time, human resources, budgetary, and technological resources are needed for the planning, construction, and maintenance of road infrastructure. The development of infrastructure is already focused on building a sustainable road network as well as on timely repairs and maintenance activities. A good road network has a significant impact on the economic prosperity of a nation.

From the initial phases of project development through those of planning, construction, and maintenance, the road infrastructure sector faces a multitude of challenges.

Despite having a significant impact on both the economy and society, this sector has performed far less digitally than other industrial sectors. From the planning and engineering phases to the constructing and maintaining phases, highway construction entails varied levels of complexity.

The current approach of highway alignment, which uses Geographical Information System (GIS is a computer system that analyzes and displays geographically referenced information) and remote sensing technology, saves time, requires less labor, and is less expensive than the traditional method. In the past, road sector operations were carried out in narrow spaces with little use of technology.

Effective transportation planning and design can reduce the effects of storms that are climate-related. A thorough Detailed Project Report (DPR) is an essential component of the overall project planning and development process.

A good DPR should be affordable and consist of a realistic plan with less unfavorable social and environmental impact. Climate resilience should be considered when developing the DPR.

In turn, a climate-resilient road infrastructure will guarantee its capacity to preserve economic, social, and environmental sustainability. The idea of “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation, or reconstruction is one of the few advantages of a disaster like a specific events when structures need to be reconstructed.

When local infrastructure has to be updated, every chance should be used to upgrade it. The scope and quality of research and investigations have a significant impact on the choice of the most cost-effective design, quantity estimation, budgeting, and work execution. As a result, while planning a project, accuracy and thoroughness of surveys should get special consideration.

In any event, it should be made sure that professionals with the necessary knowledge are assigned to the project. Utilizing advanced equipment, survey methodologies, and technology guarantees high levels of accuracy and accelerates operations.

Highway project preparation involves a series of tasks, which include field surveys and investigations, alignment selection, social and environmental factors, structure type selection, execution of various designs, preparation of drawings and estimates, economic and financial evaluation, preparation of contract documents, quality assurance scheme, maintenance manual, and timetable, among others.

The project report must follow all statutory requirements, specifications that have been announced or adopted by the relevant department, such as

  1. MORT&H – Ministry of Road Transport & Highways
  2. MORD – Ministry of Rural Development
  3. NHAI – National Highways Authority of India
  4. PWD – Public Works Department
  5. IRC – Indian Roads Congress
  6. BIS – Bureau of Indian Standards, etc.

The primary objective of route selection and alignment improvement is to reduce transportation costs while still covering the original cost of construction, maintenance costs, and user charges.

It is essential to note that despite being present in every part of a nation, roads often face a variety of difficulties depending on regional site circumstances, traffic demand, driver behavior, resource availability, etc.

Road safety is a major problem for engineers and other professionals in the road sector since the sector’s dynamics need dynamism in solutions, both conceptually and practically.

IRC published numerous guidelines / manual on project preparation activity of various category of roads starting from Expressway, NH, SH, MDR, RP, UR, etc i.e.,

  1. IRC:SP:19 – Manual for Survey, Investigation and Preparation of Road Projects;
  2. IRC:SP:54 – Project Preparation Manual for Bridges; – to carry out investigations and designs for bridges and other structures
  3. IRC:SP:13 – Requirements for design of culverts and minor bridges
  4. IRC:52 – Recommendations about the Alignment, Survey and Geometric Design of Hill Roads
  5. IRC:SP:48 – Hill Road Manual” for hill roads
  6. IRC:SP:20 – Rural Road Manual – for PMGSY & rural roads
  7. IRC:SP:128 – Urban Road Manual” for urban roads

Geographic information system (GIS) applications for transportation are becoming quite common. Highway maintenance, traffic modelling, accident analysis, route planning, and environmental assessment of road plans are examples of typical applications. A organised road network is a prime requisite for the majority of transportation GIS.

It is important to incorporate other information about general topography, land use, and land cover when assessing the effects of construction. GIS are being utilized more and more in transportation planning organisations, particularly in urban transportation organisations.

Highway maintenance management is evolving into a crucial concern in many industrial nations. Because of reduced prices and GIS’s increasing user friendliness, many more authorities are now able to utilize it for highway and transportation administration.

GIS provide a method for transportation planners to store and analyze data on population densities, land uses, traffic patterns, etc. Map/display and data integration are the main goals of utilizing GIS. Agencies must identify possible issues that a GIS application may solve more quickly, cost-effectively, and effectively than current approaches.

Today, engineers, bridge owners, decision-makers, and stakeholders use Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s), or drones equipped with remote sensing devices or NDTs, to survey, inspect, and monitor road and bridge projects. They do this to investigate and document structural condition, evaluate safety performance, and implement mitigation and rehabilitation strategies as needed.

The most popular NDT for drone-based data collecting is visual imaging, which includes picture and video cameras, followed by IRT (Infrared Thermography is an NDT technique which uses a camera to produce visible images showing the amount of infrared energy emitted by an object), LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging is a remote sensing method used to examine the surface of the Earth), and sensors.

Almost all sectors of the economy, including agriculture, mining, infrastructure, surveillance, emergency response, transportation, geo-spatial mapping, defense, and law enforcement, may benefit financially from drone technology. Due to their reach, adaptability, and usability, drones may significantly contribute to the creation of jobs and economic growth, particularly in India’s rural and inaccessible places.

The key is to enable mechanisms to leverage digital transformation tools and technologies that will help the country to address its multi-dimensional vision of developing and delivering highway infrastructure to best global standards. India, with its vast geography and demography, faces many challenges in achieving its infrastructure development priorities.

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Also Read: Challenges in Bridge Structures and the Way Forward

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