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LESSONS:

Southern Provincial Roads Improvement Project

sector: Transport | country: Sri Lanka

Any reassessment of a project is problematic where only limited field investigation has been carried out. A BME database management system must be set up for each project, right at the start of implementation. Using well-established scientific principles and techniques of experimental design would put BME for provincial roads on a more solid footing. Areas for improvement in future projects were identified, including: patchiness in both data collection and information safekeeping for BME since the time of appraisal; BME has often to be restrained and based upon a relatively small sample of road sections which needs to strike a balance between social and other demographic features; BME requires statistical coherence in the material collected and consolidated during the course of the project and in the years beyond; and road condition surveys should be geared towards the provision of consistent network-wide estimates of international roughness index (IRI), in particular, on all roads surveyed.

Better consultation, coordination, and cooperation between public authorities would help reduce the incidence of problems related to relocation of utility services along roadways. The public service authorities were generally too slow to act on requests to relocate infrastructure that obstructed the project’s road rehabilitation work although funds for such relocation were available through the project. When preparing projects in the future, other arrangements should be earnestly sought to ensure the timely relocation of such service infrastructure.

Similar road projects in the future might more usefully be designed around local network effects than road classification. Existing and potential public transport routes, irrespective of the class of road used, might be a more appropriate starting point for design rather than a collection of dispersed short road segments, selected only because they fall within the purview of a single government authority. For the project, it was realized during appraisal that one of the risks was connected with the possible failure of the government to fully implement its plans to develop and maintain the primary road network serving the project area (Southern Province). Even now, after the project, some project roads are functionally connected to major class-B roads that are still in an indifferent state of repair. Where evident, this situation has tended to blunt the efficacy of the project.

Sustainable road maintenance requires a continuing focus on the potential benefits available from effective and consistent budget allocation and expenditure. Funds must be allocated by the government to maintain infrastructure properly, and maintenance must be efficiently executed to obtain maximum benefit. Both of these requirements must be met as either one without the other will result in a deterioration of services. The project has contributed effectively towards ensuring that the latter requirement is met to the fullest extent, but the imbalance so far evidenced in the accomplishment of these two requirements, and the deleterious effects of this imbalance, should continue to be of major concern as a potential risk when preparing similar projects in the future.

There are assured benefits to be gained by shortening as much as possible the response time between project preparation and implementation. Additional design and maintenance costs could be avoided, and economic performance and efficiency would improve. Borrowers and ADB together must ensure that the overall process is speeded up to the fullest extent possible.

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