Concrete roads are maintenance-free, but takes a heavy toll on tyres

Are concrete roads a panacea to all road woes?

While Mangalore City Corporation (MCC) engineers have been batting for concrete roads, there appears to be an overwhelming support for tar roads from veteran engineers of the Public Works Department and the National Highways Authority of India.

The MCC has been saying that it is concreting major roads as they are maintenance-free and would last long. The corporation’s Superintending Engineer, Kanta Raju, says that though laying a kilometre of concrete road is two-times costlier than laying a tar road it will be a permanent solution to end the menace of potholes and wear and tear of the surface. But engineers should ensure that no utility line or underground sewage line passes below a concrete road. “Concrete roads are one-time solution,” he said.

Mr. Raju says that the cost of cutting a concrete road in case if a utility line below gets damaged differed based on the length and thickness of the road. But the minimum cost of cutting and re-filling a one sq. ft. road will be about Rs. 1,000.

Shankaranarayana Bhat, a retired Superintending Engineer of the Public Works Department, says that concrete roads are best suited to this city considering heavy rainfall. But he warns that one stretch of concrete road should not be more than five kilometres. “Driving on a long stretch of concrete road damages tyres. To avoid this, tar roads for a length of one or two km can be laid in between long stretches of concrete roads,” Mr. Bhat says.

Engine oil, which leaks from vehicles in the stop-and-proceed process in the city, also damages tar roads. Though both engine oil and tar are petrochemical products, it is a fact that they weaken the tar road, he says. The minimum cost of maintaining one kilometre of tar road will be Rs. 22,000, says the retired engineer.

But a consulting civil engineer, S.N. Bhat, says that concrete roads are not the panacea for ending the pothole problem in the city. The city should first have proper drainage system and later roads should be laid as per the standards specified. Potholes in the city are the result of stagnating water on roads.

A senior official in the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), who requested anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to media, says that if concrete roads were the ultimate solution for coastal cities, the Indian Road Congress would have recommended them. But it has not done so. Many coastal cities in the country have not gone for concrete roads.

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