Bengaluru: As BBMP Unveils Rs 1449 crore Project To White-Top 39 Key Roads In The City, A Look At Pros And Cons Of This Technology

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is proposing to white-top 39 additional roads in the Bengaluru city covering a total length of 114.46 km in the city.

The project with an estimated cost of Rs. 1449 crores will be the third and the largest phase of white-topping to be taken up by the city.

Some of the key roads that are planned to be white-topped include the Outer Ring Road (ORR) from Silk Board to KR Puram, Kammanahalli Main Road, Ulsoor Lake Road, Indiranagar Double Road, and Inner Ring Road at Yeshwanthpur, among others.

Under the first two phases of the project, around 143 km of roads in the city have been white-topped(or almost nearing completion).

White Topping An Enduring Solution?

White-topping is a process where the normal black-top roads or the bitumen roads are given a layer of concrete on top.

The technology is widely regarded as useful for Indian roads, which are overwhelmed by rising vehicular traffic and road congestion. This places tremendous pressure on our roads, resulting in cracks and dangerous potholes.

In fact, between 2018 and 2020, 5626 people have died due to pothole-related accidents in the country.

Whilst these problems have persisted, white-topping has emerged as a long-term alternative for the rehabilitation of bitumen roads.

This is because the Portland Cement Concrete (PCC) is considered more long-lasting and is believed to prevent the formation of potholes.

The technology improves the structural capacity of existing bitumen pavements, increasing their shelf-life. It also prevents rutting, cracks and potholes, which provides a safer and faster commute.

Green Technology

Apart from structural advantages, the technology also offers low life-cycle cost, improved safety and a host of environmental benefits.

  • White Topping is quite cost effective to tackle annual budget constraints and high traffic level.

    Even with high initial budget, the life-cycle cost is far lower due to long life, low maintenance costs (due to near absence of potholes).

  • The technology improves visibility and commuter safety at night by enhancing light reflectance. This reduces the illumination load of any road, thus saving 20 -30 per cent energy.
  • A white-topped road lowers vehicular braking distance, making it safer in both dry and wet surface conditions.
  • With a reduced pavement deflection, the vehicular fuel consumption is reduced by 10 to 15 per cent, thereby reducing emissions.
  • Reduces the urban heat island effect by absorbing less heat, which in turn lowers the energy consumption for air conditioning in urban buildings
  • With a 100 per cent recyclability, white topped pavement can be crushed and reused at the end of life. 

Pot-hole Free Bengaluru

That some of Bengaluru’s roads are in bad shape is not news anymore.

The Asphalted or Blacktopping roads found commonly in the city of Bengaluru have an expected life span of 5 years.

Also, drainage is also the major cause of concern in rainy season which is affecting the life of pavement in terms of structural failure.

BBMP has pushed for white-topping, stating that is the ultimate cure for the pothole menace, and will provide roads offering better rideability, without disturbing the overall pavement structure.

The White topping roads are expected to last up to 15-20 years.

The fourth largest municipal corporation of the country has completed white-topping around 143 km of roads in the city in the first two phases.

In the first phase, 94 km was covered at a cost of Rs 972 crore, while in the second phase, 49 km was white-topped at a cost of Rs 704 crore.

Rapid Road Technology

Meanwhile, the Civic body has started a pilot project for rapid rollout of white-topping by using what the BBMP calls a ‘Rapid Road’ technology.

Under the pilot project, the civic body aims to fabricate the concrete slabs (20 feet in length and 5 feet in width) in the factory and embed them on a 500-metre stretch on Old Madras Road.

The pilot technology offers considerable time savings, as the entire project can be completed in five days.

Compared to this the BBMP takes around 26 to 28 days to white-top a road with the regular process.

This includes milling, levelling, providing bituminous concrete and the mandatory 21 days of curing period. Under the new technology, the concrete slabs are brought to the site and placed on the road using cranes.

However, the ‘Rapid Road’ project costs more than regular white-topping. The new project requires an additional cost of transporting the concrete slabs to the site.

Few Activists Think White Topping Is Bad Economics

The third phase which comes just months before the state Assembly elections is being opposed on many counts, particularly the cost overlay and poor benefits.

The State government has already declared its intent to review the project owing to its high cost.

At present, the BBMP spends Rs 9-10 crore to white-top one kilometre of road compared to asphalting which costs Rs 75 lakh to Rs 1 crore per kilometre.

Questions are also being asked about the utility of white-topping which does not increase the carrying capacity of the road.

The project has also caused immense inconvenience to commuters and the citizens.

The city is witnessing dug up roads which becomes a mess in the monsoons, generates huge amount of dust, and worst of all causes constant traffic jams and chaos.

Many activists, however, argue the solution to Bengaluru’s traffic problem lay not in roads but in doubling the fleet of city buses and building at least 1,500 km of walkable footpaths.