TenderSURE, scaling up issues

TenderSURE, scaling up issues

TenderSURE, scaling up issues
Striking a balance between footpaths and motor-lanes, TenderSURE roads just showed how to reclaim the pedestrian’s space. The car-obsessed commuters grumbled but eventually fell in line with this dramatic shift in priority. But a new challenge threatens to kill this unique experiment!

The question is this: Will the next phase of 50 roads follow the same guidelines that dictated the first 12 roads? What made the project corruption-free was the third-party inspection to settle contractor bills and final approval by an Empowered Committee headed by the Chief Secretary.

The TenderSURE design too is under scrutiny. BBMP Chief Engineer, Major roads, KT Nagaraj says the guidelines are yet to be finalized. Implication: The financial and design framework that dictated the first phase roads are being reviewed. This could potentially spell trouble for the project itself.

Corruption fears

Going back to the BBMP model of execution, it is feared, will drill a big hole in the project financials. TenderSURE’s revenue model was designed to isolate it from charges of kickbacks and inefficiency that have entrapped several Palike projects. 

Tweaking the design could eventually benefit only the corporator-engineer-contractor nexus, ever eager to grab lucrative road repair and maintenance contracts. The existing design mandates that all underground utilities such as power, water, sewage and OFCs should be shifted below the pavement.

The 12 roads under the first two phases follow this pattern. Utility ducts carry all the pipes and cables. They could be accessed anytime through openings, without digging up the road. This effectively negates the need for frequent road repair and digging.

Lined up for a similar makeover are 50 more Bengaluru roads. To make it easier for commuters during the construction phase, only 25 roads will be taken up first. MLAs, corporators and other key influencers are keen to get that TenderSURE touch. Hectic lobbying is on to get select roads in the list.

This competitive spirit to upgrade the poorly structured city roads is fine, say architects and road infrastructure experts. But the thrust only on road beautification without shifting utilities will eventually kill the entire project. The design runs deeper, the underground mess has to be cleaned up.

Funding pattern

Of course, the upgrade will not come cheap. The project cost for all the 50 roads has been estimated to be around Rs. 700 crore. The first 25 roads covering 35 km will cost Rs 10 crore /kilometre. The state government had fully funded the upgrade of seven roads under the first phase. The next five roads too had a high share of government funding. 

But only Rs 4 crore out of the Rs 10 crore kilometre cost goes into actual road-building. Sixty per cent of the money is spent on new underground utility lines. In comparison, a normal BBMP road costs Rs. 2.5 crore a kilometre. However, there is a catch. An additional Rs. 40 lakh is spend on repairs. Over a four-year period, this adds up to Rs 1.6 crore, effectively bridging the gap, explains V Ravichandar from Feedback Consulting.

Areas of improvement

Commuters have already got a taste of TenderSURE on St Mark’s Road, Cunningham Road, parts of Commissariat Road, Vittal Mallya Road and stretches of Museum Road. While the design philosophy of uniform motor lanes, rationalised footpaths and utility lanes have been adhered to, there are areas of improvement.

One, the inter-departmental coordination between agencies such as BBMP and BWSSB, so critical for a project of this stature and magnitude, is yet to be perfected. This came glaringly to the fore recently, when an upgraded stretch of Residency road was dug up to rectify a fault over a BWSSB pipeline. Prior planning and data-sharing between the two agencies could have avoided this lapse.

Poor work site maintenance is another area of concern, as urban infrastructure experts point out. Explains one of them, preferring anonymity: “Often, the road-building material are stored haphazardly, causing lot of inconvenience to the pedestrians and road-users. The aesthetics of the construction sites should improve.”

Design enhancement

Architects closely linked to the TenderSURE project also point to a few stretches of the completed footpath that are uneven. More groundwater recharging points in the storm water drains (SWD) is another key suggestion. The SWDs along existing TenderSURE roads are designed such that rain water percolates down through holes at regular intervals to recharge the ground water locally. 

While the design has been dynamic enough to protect existing roadside trees, critics have asked why the upgraded roads have no place for new trees. The challenge, as the planners contend, is in finding trees without long roots. “Roots interfere with the underground ducts. Eventually, it becomes very difficult to maintain the stability of the footpaths.”

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