Daredevil pothole drives

Daredevil pothole drives

It all began in August. Record rains had the city in a tizzy, washing away people, flooding low-lying areas and destroying its already weak road infrastructure. By September, it was raining potholes across the city. The response had to be on a war-footing. There was absolutely no choice.

BBMP did get into action mode. But the quality of its hurried pothole-filling exercise was so bad that the fillings started coming off overnight. Battered and bruised, the central business district roads got this temporary yet cosmetic job. But on the CBD's periphery, the Sarjapur Road and Outer Ring Road stretches near Eco Space still remain in tatters.

A motorist from Rajajinagar, Sneha Krishnaswamy articulates the public angst this way: "Every year, authorities promise us with pothole-free road but it never happens. The road from Seshadripuram to Link Road is in a pathetic condition. I once fell down from my bike and had minor injuries. With no proper street lights and potholes all over the road, there is this fear of riding in the night."

Spike in accidents

For IT employee, Satish Alajangi, the fear of accidents due to potholes was so great that he entirely stopped using his motorcycle for a while, opting for the Metro instead. "I have seen accidents caused due to potholes in front of my eyes and since then I have been travelling in Metro and buses."

These commuter concerns bring to the fore the quality of the patchwork repair of the potholes. Road engineering experts are clear that the repaired roads will not last more than two months. One expert with an eye on traffic patterns, notes that the BBMP lacks proper guidelines for road construction. "The asphalt roads require heating a mixture of sand, gravel and bitumen to 140 C. Bitumen should be 5.5% of the mixture. However, most of the times, it is just 3.3%. When the mixture is brought to the construction site, it should be heated to 120 C," he explains.

This heating requirement, Sreehari points, is not met. The third flaw is that road builders add soil, not sand, to the mixture because sand is not cheap. "Due to this flawed process, the mixture does not hold to the ground, which leads to more number of potholes when it rains."

Waterlogging cause

Urban mobility analyst, Sanjeev Dyamannavar says the civic body should not allow vehicular movement for 6-12 hours after filling pothole. The root of the problem should be identified first, opines expert, R K Misra. "Filling a pothole is always a shoddy work. But water-logging is the reason why so many potholes dot roads in the city. Even TenderSURE roads have potholes in some spots. Once they address this issue, the pothole problem can be addressed," he says.

Pothole-filling is a costly affair, says BBMP. A senior Palike official informs that it costs about Rs 816 to fill one single pothole. Now consider this: The city had about 33,000 potholes with patchwork repair not expected to last hardly a year.

BBMP is also using machines such as Python and Micro Milling to fill potholes. Recently, the Palike awarded the contract to a private company to fix potholes for three years at a cost of Rs 4.5 crore per year. Although this machine is being used on a contract basis through a working order, the money spent has made a big hole in BBMP's pocket.

Python machines

B S Prahallad, BBMP's Chief Engineer, road infrastructure, informs: "BBMP is using Python machines only for the Defect Liability Period (DLP) roads. The contractors are maintaining the remaining roads and the pothole filling work is done by them."

BBMP Commissioner N Manjunath Prasad agrees that the hot mix used for potholes will not last long. So, what is the alternative? He says asphalting work on arterial and sub-arterial roads will be taken up soon.

With state assembly elections round the corner, Siddaramaiah has already ordered BBMP to complete this task by March / April 2008. The project, covering a total road length of about 400 km, is huge.

But what about the current work? Law graduate Varun Gowda, who resides in Mathikere, squarely blames contractors and civic officials for the shoddy work. "These contractors use gravel and dirt, and sometimes pour a layer of asphalt over the potholes. This does not last for more than two months. It is an utter waste of public money," Gowda says.

When the condition of the roads worsened, it was the traffic police who first took the initiative to fill the potholes. Only after four lost their lives while avoiding potholes in separate cases did the government realise the magnitude of the problem.

The first accident occurred on Mysuru Road flyover. Three more accidents after this, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah inspected the roads and set a 15-day (October 23) deadline on October 9 to make Bengaluru 'pothole-free.' However, Mayor R Sampath Raj pushed this deadline to October 23 and again to November 6.

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