Evaluating the vital East-West Highway is the first step in improving Nepal’s strategic road network
The East-West Highway in Nepal is the country’s main domestic and international trade route, also known as the Mahendra Highway. The arterial highway is to receive a major upgrade in the coming years. The main objective of the comprehensive Road Maintenance Project is to strengthen the quality of Nepal’s strategic road network, reduce road maintenance costs, and improve road quality to reduce the cost of transportation and encourage business growth.
Testing the road condition with Dynatest equipment
To manage and execute the ongoing project several institutions and corporations are involved. The company Unit Export Limited has been responsible for delivering the equipment for evaluating the condition of the existing road and pavement. To get the right equipment, they had Dynatest deliver a Falling Weight Deflectometer with Elmod software.
The vehicle arrived in February 2020 in the capital, Kathmandu, just before the outbreak of the coronavirus, but the work could not begin. The pilot project evaluating a 77-kilometer road section of the East-West Highway was delayed, and at one point it was uncertain if it could continue.
Getting to work
Months later, things were looking differently. The project was back on track, and Dynatest had a technician in Nepal to train the operator team from the Nepalese Department of Roads and Institute of Engineering on how to use the equipment.
Usually, when the Dynatest technicians conduct the training, they simulate different situations, but in this case, they decided to move the training to the actual project and the highway that was just waiting to be tested. This test section is going to be upgraded as a pilot project with introduction of Full Depth Reclamation and Superpave pavement, both new technologies for Nepal.
Road Maintenance Specialist Prabin Thapa representing Millennium Challenge Account Nepal Development Board (MCA-Nepal), which is a Government of Nepal agency formed to manage the compact agreement, is in charge of the communication between the parties involved. He made sure that Dynatest had the information to get started. Despite poor accessibility in difficult terrain, long distances, and communication challenges, the hands-on training onsite had a successful outcome.
Measurement of deflections on DoR (Department of Roads) highways is not a regular activity and generally carried out on occasions when roads need to be improved or major intervention is required. MCA-Nepal has identified road deflection measurements as key indicators for road maintenance, and hence intends to strengthen DoR’s capacity to carry out deflections on a more regular basis to facilitate timely maintenance.
– Deflection measurements are to be taken on the entire Strategic Road Network (SRN) of Nepal – with one measurement every 500 meters and one measurement every 50 meters for MCA project road segments. MCA-Nepal is using the FWD to assess if the pavement is structurally able to support heavy traffic over the next 15 or 20 years and to establish the needed structural reinforcement at the least cost to meet those structural requirements over the expected life, explains Prabin Thapa.
Pushing pilot project forward with efficient data collection
In a short time, the operators had collected data on the road section of 77 kilometers. The valuable training and successful data collection could then be used for the training on how to use the Elmod software for reporting. Having the real data instead of simulated data at this stage meant that the entire pilot project was pushed forward several months.
Getting to know the road
After collecting all required data, it was imported in Elmod to evaluate the road section. The analyzing software showed different responses in different road sections and chainages under the same design parameter setup.
The results from the Elmod software and proper engineering judgment, it was found that in some sections, the particular road had got severe failure from subgrade level, and in some sections, there was failure in the top layer only. Also, it showed that some portion of road was stiff enough to bear the assumed traffic for design life of 20 years.
As this was a trial attempt, more data will need to be collected and analyzed for further planning and construction.
Major project funded by Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Government of Nepal
The Road Maintenance Project is one out of two large projects that are supported by the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal and the United States of America acting through the Millennium Challenge Corporation. MCC forms partnerships with developing countries that are committed to good governance, economic freedom, and investing in their citizens, and provides grant funding for the implementation of projects under MCC compacts.
Together the two countries entered into the Millennium Challenge Compact in 2017. With a budget of USD 630 million, the compact includes two projects: The Road Maintenance Project which includes technical assistance to improve the country’s road maintenance regime and road maintenance works on about 300 kilometers of the strategic road network. The Electricity Transmission Project includes construction of about 300 kilometers of 400kV electricity transmission lines, three substations, and technical assistance for the power sector.
MCA-Nepal is using the FWD to assess if the pavement is structurally able to support heavy traffic over the next 15 or 20 years and to establish the needed structural reinforcement at the least cost to meet those structural requirements over the expected life.