Chennai has received 71 cm of rain during this year's northeast monsoon, leaving the roads in the Chennai Metropolitan Area in a shambles. Motorists grapple with traffic chaos and rain-ravaged roads.

It is not just the roads maintained by the Corporation and the local bodies but also those managed by the Highways Department that are badly damaged.

Highways Department officials said traffic diversion on service roads from the main carriageway owing to the Metrorail project led to the damage.

G. Parimala, a resident of West Mambalam, said: “I am physically challenged. It was difficult to skip across puddles. I saw parents with their sick children negotiating stretches of overflowing drains in the lanes leading to a private children's hospital in Nungambakkam.”

Miriam Madhav of Trust Puram regularly visits her father in Swarnambikai Nagar, Virugambakkam. “The Market Road was filthy and as there is no pavement I was forced to wade through filth. My feet are full of slime by the time I reach home,” she said.

While Corporation officials said they had allotted Rs.135 crore for road improvement work, residents demand that quality and longevity be ensured. Officials said rain, road cuts on 700 km stretch for developmental works such as installing water and sewer pipelines, and work on construction of stormwater drains had caused the damage.

Improvement to roads constitutes 20 per cent of the Corporation's budget. This year, the civic body's Bus Route Roads department has completed repair work on 33 of 77 roads that it planned to repair at a cost of Rs.21.37 crore, officials said.

Roads that had been repaired include R.K. Mutt Road, R.A. Puram Second Main Road, Brodies Castle Road, Raja Muthiah Road, N.S.K. Salai, Ethiraj Salai, Barathi Salai, Esplanade Road and Cathedral Road.

The Corporation's road contractors said road cuts by various service departments did not adhere to the specifications given by the civic body. As they cannot withstand the pressure of vehicles, the roads get damaged further. The road cuts have to be patched with special care but the civic body does not have the provisions to meet the need, they said.

Need for monitoring

According to transportation engineering experts, lack of monitoring road-laying process, poor coordination between cold milling contractors and paver finishers, quoting low prices to win contracts which compromised on road design affected the quality of roads. “It is a question of closely monitoring the work right from the mix preparation to the laying of roads. A certain temperature should be maintained while laying bituminous roads, which would otherwise lead to aberrations,” said V. Thamizh Arasan, professor, Transportation Engineering Division, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT-Madras. Stagnant water could damage the road to a certain extent and poor drainage is only one of the reasons, he added.

Former deputy director of Highways Research Station D. Thirunakkarasu said, “Research has proved that a perfectly paved road surface with proper camber will last for 25 years if there are no road cuts.”

Roads have to be executed after obtaining mix design report from approved laboratories, he said. Lapses in adhering to the mix design report should be addressed. A higher proportion ‘fine aggregates' would reduce cost of the road, but would lead to reduction of its structural stability, Mr. Thirunakkarasu said.

Small contractors are upset with the civic body's proposal to entrust the project of Rs.60.10 crore, which is to be taken up under State government funding to big contractors. It has been proposed to provide the projects to contractors with an annual turnover of Rs.10 crore and the expertise to adhere to the specified road design.

The Corporation plans to have a State Quality Monitor comprising former engineers of the Highways Department, perhaps for the first time, to monitor the quality of the work and weed out the problems.

(With inputs from Aloysius Xavier Lopez, K. Lakshmi and R. Sujatha)

What they say: -

B. Shanthi, private firm employee

“I usually drive to work on my two-wheeler from Tondiarpet to my office in Adyar. But for a week now, after the rains, I started commuting on MRTS as it is risky going on my vehicle. I have had a couple of falls, as the drains were not covered and also because motorists violate traffic rules. Roads in Mint and Broadway are pathetic. ”

V. Thamizh Arasan, professor, Transportation Engineering Division, Dept. of Civil Engineering, IIT-Madras: “If the roads are laid as per specification using better quality control then the normal lifespan of bituminous road is 10 years. The road should be given proper camber, where the road should slope to the margins. Part of the problem is not adhering to the specification and inadequate quality control measures. ”

M. Subramanian, Mayor: “Re-laying work on roads would start by the end of December. The massive re-laying of roads at a total cost of Rs.135 crore would be completed in March. Information on the roads to be re-laid will be available online. People are asked to give feedback on the work and also inform officials about the roads yet to be included on the list. Roads that are severely damaged will be given priority. Patch work on 4.2 lakh sq. m will also be done.”

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