Why highway roads don’t last long

05Mar 2016
Aisia Rweyemamu
The Guardian
Why highway roads don’t last long

Despite government efforts to construct more roads to tarmac level, it still spends 90 per cent of road sector revenues on road maintenance with only 10 percent going for new road construction.

Pothole damage at Iringa-Mbeya high way

Experts say that this situation arises from overloading coupled with heavy duty vehicles, intense passenger vehicles traffic plying upcountry and on regional routes, that these are the major causes of road damage in the country.

Eliud Nyauhenga, the deputy manager for resource mobilization in the Roads Fund Board, told The Guardian in an interview that despite overloading charges on vehicles, the penalty has done little to prevent road damage.

The Guardian sought explanation from the expert with regard to a road section stretching from Chalinze to Dar es Salaam which has formed a typical series of ridges essentially resulting from vehicle overloading and traffic pressure.

The section of road between Dar es Salaam and Chalinze has so much traffic compared to other highways as it is the major outlet and inlet of all upcountry and regional heavy duty vehicles.

“Heavy duty traffic and overloading causes potholes on roads and creates water reservours. Later, stagnant water on the road destroys both the base course and sub base layers of road,” he elaborated.

Nyauhenga said despite such damage, the overloading penalty was attracting a minimum amount of $22 for a vehicle exceeding 500kg of overload with $35,000 being charged for exceeding 31,500 vehicle weights.

Despite such penalties however, most road users continue to ignore traffic rules, putting the life span of our roads at risk, he said.

“The increase in vehicle overloading is a threat to the life of the roads network in the country as it contributes highly to the deteriorating state of roads,” he said.

“Overloading fees charged are also not enough to compensate for the damage caused to our roads. Road maintenance needs a lot of money,” he pointed out.

The road network in the country will only remain safe if road users especially traders obey road rules and stop overloading, he further noted.

“Plans by the government to collect zero revenues from overloading have remained a nightmare as records of overloading keep rising each year,” he said.

At least 940,446 vehicles were found to have overloaded in the 2014/15 financial year compared to 875,314 vehicles on record for 2013 while 744, 318 incidents were recorded in the same period in 20012, available data from the RFB show.

The data also indicate an additional 49,724 vehicles being overloaded beyond the tolerance level in 2014, with the manager stressing that to minimize road damage, regular major repairs are crucial to major roads countrywide.

Research by the South African National Road Agency indicated that small road damage if not repaired is likely to cause whole road overhaul with time.

The cost of maintaining a road could be six times higher if not done on time, for instance in terms of a three year maintenance lifespan for a road.

“If the road is left unrepaired for a period of five years since damage occurrence then the cost can go up to 18 times more,” researchers noted.

Shekilango Road with 3.8 kilometers located in Kinondoni municipality had to cost the municipality Sh3bn in maintenance, way above the projected Sh300m due to maintenance delays.

According to Tanroads, it costs about Sh750m in maintenance for a kilometer of road with the construction billed at Sh1.2bn for the same length.

However the price can go as low as Sh450m for a kilometer if the road is maintained regularly, thereby reducing heavily the burden to taxpayers.

About 10 percent of road funds are being earmarked for new road construction while the capacity to meet road maintenances stands at 45 and 65 per cent of total needs, the roads fund manager remarked.

The country’s road life span is also pegged at 20 to 30 years while professionally for a road to stay a longer lifespan it needs major repairs after five or eight years of its construction, repeatedly.

“We are not doing such major repairs on time because of limited resources compared to the number of national road networks to cater for,” he added.