Retain Ground-Level Inter-connectivity of India’s Rural Road Networks When Building 4-lane Highways

Preface:  I tried to send this article to many leading Indian English Dailies — The Hindu, the Times of India, Hindustan Times, Indian Express… …  Unfortunately, when I visited their websites, I could not find even one e-mail address of either the editor for Op-Ed pieces, or e-mail addresses for their editors for different sections in the different dailies.

So, I am uploading this article in my own website in the faint hope that those who are well-connected in India’s political and administrative set up reading the article will forward this article or bring the proposal to the attention of the Powers That Be in India.

There is a great push in India for building high-speed limited access tolled expressways connecting cities.  Almost always, these high-speed 4-lane divided expressways are built along the existing national Highways built several decades ago, or even earlier. The government collects tolls for the vehicles using these limited0-access roads to defray the cost of building the high-speed roads

These high-speed limited-access freeways are helpful to commerce, whose primary and immediate beneficiaries are usually the big industrial houses and the increasingly urbanizing middle class.  As India moves forward, everybody would stand to gain by these high-speed expressways – quick transportation, reduced accidents and fatalities, etc.  This type of infrastructure is long overdue.  Freight trucks carrying large loads between cities, inter-city buses, private cars, and motorbikes use these toll roads to reach their destinations quickly and safely.

One of the challenges in building 4-lane limited-access divided expressways on the existing National Highways roads (as say, between Nagpur and Agra, Chennai and Tiruchi or Chennai and Bangalooru, or Mumbai and Ahmedabad and others) is:  how to accommodate and get around the existing intersections of local rural roads along the freeways. 

The intersections of these rural local roads have existed for a very long time for well over a few centuries, and in the past have been convenient for linking villages lying on either side of the existing national highways.

These villages have existed close to each other for centuries, and having a road access for the rural people on the same ground level is convenient for

a)     People walking from one side of the high way to the other carrying loads on their heads and shoulders often on barefoot, and

b)     Bicyclists and or carts pulled by muscle powers of bullocks and even muscular men.  Yes.  In some places, we still see men pulling carts.

People take these rural roads to go between these villages scattered along either sides of the national highways.

 It is important to retain the social cohesion among these villages interlinked through these roads on the same level as they exist today.  Retaining the existing interlinks through these rural roads is important for another reason as well.  Often, people live on one side of the expressway own fields on the other side of the road, or work on the fields on other sides of the expressway, or children living on one side of the road walk to schools on the other side of the road.

So, easy and quick access to these villages is critical for agricultural productivity too.

In their efforts to contain cost of building inter-state limited access expressways, the government often opts to close the existing rural roads to make way for the high-speed expressway.  This causes great inconvenience for the rural population scattered throughout the India.

Elected officials and officials need to institute policies/guidelines to National Highways Division such that wherever the rural roads and the high-speed expressways intersect, the expressways will be built over the rural roads such that the existing rural roads would remain as they are now at ground level and the hi-speed traffic would be over these rural roads build as flyovers or over-passes.

This will definitely increase the cost of the high-speed expressway, and further, it will take longer construction time.

However, most of these new expressways are toll-roads used by businesses, and industries, and the more affluent classes owning private cars etc., and the cost of these overpasses (flyovers) would be recovered over time.  ♦

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