Transportation Infrastructure Needs and Developments

Dr. N. Subramanian, Consulting Engineer, Gaithersburg, MD, USA

Introduction

Mobility is fundamental to economic and social activities of any country. Mobility is provided by the transportation infrastructure and this has a huge impact on the development and welfare of the population. In several countries, lack of transportation infrastructure and regulatory controls are jointly impacting economic development. Moreover, transport systems are among the various factors affecting the quality of life and safety in a city. Though there are several modes of transport, like road, rail, air, and water, in many countries road networks cater to the majority of transportation needs. For example, in India, as per the National Highways Authority of India, about 65% of freight and 80% passenger traffic is carried by the roads. The National Highways carry about 40% of total road traffic, though only about 2% of the road network is covered by these roads. Rural areas have poor access 33% of villages in India still do not have all-weather road and remains cut-off during monsoon. Average growth of the number of vehicles has been around 10.16% per annum over recent years. (The Automobile industry in India is rapidly growing with an annual production of over 2.6 million vehicles.) Hence only roads and bridges are considered in this article.

Demand for freight and passenger transport, particularly by road, has typically grown 1.5 to 2 times faster than GDP in most developing and transition countries. Public investment in transport typically accounts for 2.0 to 2.5 percent of GDP and may rise as high as 4 percent or more in countries modernizing or building new transport infrastructure. GOI has raised the investment in infrastructure development from 4.7% to 8% of GDP in 11th five year plan. According to recent estimates by Goldman Sachs, India will need to spend $1.7 trillion on infrastructure projects over the next decade to boost economic growth, of which $500 billion is budgeted to be spent during the Eleventh Five-Year Plan [It may be of interest to compare it with the situation in USA: Complex calculations done by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), revealed that decaying roads, bridges, railroads, and transit systems are costing the United States $129 billion a year. ASCE's 2009 Report Card for America's Infrastructure graded the America's infrastructure a "D" based on 15 categories, and estimated that USA needs to invest approximately $2.2 trillion from 2009 – 2014 to maintain infrastructure in a state of good repair. The 2009 Report Card, gave grade "D-" for roads, and grade "C" for bridges (www.infrastructurereportcard.org). It noted that nearly one-third of roads in USA are in poor or mediocre condition, 25% of bridges either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete!]. With the need for such a large scale development of infrastructure in India, the way forward is to move to fast track construction mode, to upgrade quickly the design standards and specification to international standards, to modernize the construction techniques, to use new construction materials, and to use some innovative techniques..

The urban transport situation in large cities of India is deteriorating, leading to high transportation cost to road user. The deterioration is more prevalent in metropolitan cities where there is an excessive concentration of vehicles. Commuters in these cities are faced with acute road congestion, rising air pollution, and a high level of accident risk higher transport costs, but also delays rendering supply chain management unreliable. Many new technologies have been developed to tackle the deterioration of concrete due to corrosion.

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