Rejigging the TenderSURE project

Workers of private company destroying the TenderSURE footpath in front of Shah Sultan building at Cunningham road in Bengaluru on Saturday 27th October 2018. Photo by Janardhan B K

Giving a clear pedestrian-first approach to road-building, the TenderSURE (Specifications for Urban Road Extension) project had offered an alternative that democratised road space. The motorist was no longer king. But the long delay in extending this to other roads raises a question: Has dilution in standards hit this alternative too?

Beyond the first phase that upgraded seven Central Business District (CBD) roads, the work on these roads has not been entirely trouble-free. The original TenderSURE design mandate of uniform lane width has been diluted on some stretches. Activists have questioned lack of space allotted for street vendors and a design that does not proactively aid tree growth.

Footpath damage

To make matters worse, private players are emboldened enough to damage the roads for their commercial interests. In October 2018, the TenderSURE footpath on Cunningham Road was partially damaged when a private property owner demolished his compound wall to make way for parking. It had cost the Bruhath Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Rs 12 crore to upgrade the Road.



The inclusion of 20 road stretches for TenderSURE upgrade under the Smart City project, it is hoped, will see a correction in deviations from the original design guidelines. Extending to a total length of 20.19 kms, the road stretches are to be upgraded at an estimated cost of Rs 255 crore.

18 more roads

The Palike has also proposed to develop another 18 roads under the Smart City project. Informs a BBMP official, “Earlier, the TenderSURE road upgrades were under the Nagorathana grants. But now we have planned to take up this project under the Smart City programme.”

A Detailed Project Preport will be prepared soon to redevelop the 38 identified road stretches. “We will call for the tender in another two months,” the official says. The Centre and State governments will equally share the project cost.

The TenderSURE project had received the 'Commendable Initiative Award' for the best non-motorised transport (NMT) project from the Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, at the 11th Urban Mobility India conference in Mumbai on November 4, 2018.

CBD concentration

A majority of the roads identifed for redevelopment are in the CBD area. The Palike’s rationale behind keeping the focus on the CBD is clear: Completion of a network of upgraded roads. Indeed, dilution of quality standards has left some roads water-logged after rains due to narrow grills and inadequate road gradient towards the shoulder.

But unless the network of upgraded roads is complete, the new utility lines will have to get linked to the old system of underground pipelines lying in various stages of disrepair. This conflict has often led to leakages and overflows at the intersection points. A completed network, say urban infrastructure experts, could minimize the flood hazards.

Standardisation

TenderSURE roads have indeed shown a better way to design roads, as urban planner V Ravichander points out. “But there is scope for improvement in terms of standardisation. The first of these is to save trees to the extent possible, and to strictly keep the minimum right of way uniform for vehicles. The extra space can be for footpath, parking, bus bays or hawking zones,” he explains.

Also critical are recharge pits at every 30 metres on the Storm Water Drains. “Besides, it is key to think through pedestrian crossings, all at grade. On TenderSURE roads, it is sufficient to have 3.2 metres as lane width. If you go beyond this, you won’t have space for footpath and other amenities.”

Underground utilities

Underground utilities in dedicated corridors under the footpaths is a clear TenderSURE design that could be replicated on all roads to be laid in the future. Negating the need to dig up asphalted roads, these corridors/ducts carry conduits of essential amenities such as electricity, water, sewage, OFC and more.

However, private telecom firms have often been caught bypassing the ducts to avoid the BBMP costs. The Palike's crackdown on OFC cables hanging overhead above TenderSURE roads has failed to be adequately effective.

White-topped problem

By adhering to the design mandate, the Palike certifies that dedicated underground utility ducts will eliminate the need to excavate the roads for repairs. But, as Ravichander points out, this principle was not strictly followed while white-topping several kilometres of city roads.

On many stretches, the utilities have not been fully shifted before the thick layer of concrete was applied. This, experts say, could prove costly since breaking up the white-topping for repairs will be much tougher than on an asphalted road. Relaying the road will be messier and could prove to be more problematic than a pot-hole.

Upgraded roads

The Palike has so far upgraded 12 roads under TenderSURE, using Nagorothana funds. These include Residency Road (2.00 kms), Richmond Road (2.70), Museum Road (1.20), Cunningham Road (1.47), St. Marks Road (0.90), Vittal Mallya Hospital Road (0.60), Commissariat Road (0.60), Nrupatunga Road (1.10), K G Road (1.10), Modi Hospital Road (1.93), Siddaiah Puranik Road (1.23) and Jayanagara 11th Main Road (1.27 kms).

Indeed, shifting of utilities is a costly exercise, constituting almost 60% of a TenderSURE upgrade. But, as urban architects say, the other design parameters, the concept of uniform lane width and footpath upgrade in particular, could be applied to all city roads as a general standard. A TenderSure Lite could be a practical way forward.

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