The provision of advisory services in respect to a proposed new 120kms of dual carriageway highway to be constructed in Africa.
Road transportation is a major means of movement in Africa, so it is an important factor in respect to the economy.
The initial work involved a review of Road Construction in Africa, specifically major highways which is a scarce undertaking and where roads are available they are largely poorly maintained so this needed to be factored into any proposed road construction project.
Land acquisition is always a sensitive issue in road projects. In rural areas, tribal land ownership rules can make land acquisition a long and complex exercise.
Another important aspect that had to be taken into account is Environmental considerations as a major highway can have a big impact on rural areas which are likely to have considerable sensitivities concerning wildlife, agriculture and rural livelihoods. The route maybe through classified forests where specific environmental protection constraints and measures are imposed.
Due to the high cost of construction of highway roads especially where parts of the country are characterized with poor soils and high cost of labour then there is usually heavy reliance on international aid funding such as the World Bank.
A major problem facing highway construction projects is the lack of experienced engineers and supervisors. The factor affecting supervision of highway construction projects is the low knowledge of highway design and construction, understanding and interpretation of drawings, etc. This is especially important when you consider that the highway route is likely to be over difficult terrain requiring cuttings, embankments, bridges (maybe tunnels) and other complex civil and structural engineering.
Much of the process of highway construction requires experienced personnel and equipment to carry out activities such as soil tests involving the geotechnical properties of the soils, road routing and alignment (Surveying), laying of asphalt/tarmacadam or concrete, drainage, lighting, signage, etc.
Also, construction supervision should involve checking of the quality of the materials used for construction i.e. sand, laterite, concrete, reinforcement, kerbing, line markings, pipework, etc. which all need to be in accordance with the specifications in the schedules and the highway drawings.
There is a lack of experience and expertise in modern methods of road construction especially where local home-based construction companies are used and hence many road construction projects, such as highways and bridges, do not meet cost and time performance requirements. This can have an adverse effect on project funding.
There is a poor maintenance culture of highway roads across Africa. In some instances, some of the highways are constructed without the necessary side drains and culverts. In some cases, only one side of the road drains are constructed, which later causes failure of the roads due to water ingress under the road causing soil erosion, surface cracking and collapse. Litter can also be seen in some of the highway roads which needs to be addressed when considering the project design as this can be mitigated using security fencing.
So not only is it important to consider everything regarding the design, engineering and construction of the highway but also the ongoing maintenance once it is open to traffic.
As part of the review contact was made with various oil companies regarding petrol service stations and rest/service areas along the highway. These facilities would need all the usual utilities such as water supply and electricity and probably LPG for kitchens etc.
Another important aspect was whether lighting of the highway would be required either partially or in total and the provision of emergency telephones along its length.
Consideration was also given to make the new highway a toll-road. This would significantly help in respect to funding of ongoing maintenance and in the provision of emergency services.