ADB approves $150m loan for highways, roads
By Zamir Haider
ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank on Thursday approved $150 million equivalent loan for upgrading provincial highways spreading over 303 kilometres and 1,100 kilometres of rural access roads in the Punjab.
According to the ADB, the Punjab Road Development Sector Project, by improving the road network in the province, would provide the people with better access to markets, economic opportunities and social services.
The project also backs reforms to promote road safety in a land with a high rate of motoring accidents and it provides strong support for road maintenance.
The total project cost is $ 221.1 million. The ADB loan will be from its LIBOR-based lending facility. The repayment term is 15 years, including a grace period of three years. The project, to be executed by the Punjab CWD, is due to be completion by mid-2008.
Improving links between villages and distribution centres, districts and provincial cities give the poor more job opportunities as well as access to education and health services.
More efficient road transport reduces poverty in a province where 55 per cent of the country’s 42 million poor live.
Promoting road safety is an important component in a country where high speeds, lack of safety measures, poor driver discipline, ineffective enforcement of regulations, and inadequate vehicle conditions produce one of the highest fatality rates in Asia.
Another cause of danger - and damage to roads - is overloading. Nearly 90 per cent of trucks exceed the per axle load limit of eight tonnes, reducing the service life of roads.
To address such hazards, the project will install weigh bridges on provincial highways, improve axle-control through design features and a road safety audit, and establish a pilot accident-reporting centre.
To help maintain the roads, the project includes several components like capacity building for maintenance; expanding the road asset management system; introducing modern maintenance practices, such as a maintenance contract; and, undertaking a study on road maintenance funding.
Besides, the project will support continued organisational reform and institutional strengthening of the Punjab provincial government’s Communications and Works Department. This includes strengthening the CWD’s planning and budgeting capacity as well as improving the processes for road maintenance.
The project also aims to increase private sector participation in building and maintaining roads.