Roads are strips of land that have been cleared and further improved for movement of people and goods. They should fulfil two fundamental attributes — access and mobility. Design of roads includes structural and geometric elements. Structural design begins with volume of traffic, the subsurface soil conditions, and materials for pavement. Geometric design deals with the slope of the road cross-section, the number and width of the lanes, and other characteristics.
The origin of roads is predates recorded history. Road transport started with horses, oxen, and human beings carrying goods. The conditions were primitive. The Roman Empire had a road network of more than 80,000 km. The pre-Columbian Incas of South America had, before the year 1492, made roads 5,200-km long, along the Andes. Mesopotamia, China, and India also had made roads many centuries ago. But modern highways with strength and surface quality came with the introduction of automobiles around 1890.
The most significant contribution in the evolution of roads came from two Scottish engineers, Thomas Telford (1757-1834) and John McAdam (1756-1836). Telford designed the system of raising the foundation of the road in the centre to ensure drainage of water. John McAdam designed roads using broken stones. He embanked roads a few feet higher than the surrounding terrain so as to drain away water from the road surface. McAdam roads use interlocking of coarse aggregates bonded by stone chips and dust. They continued to be the main form of roads until automobiles came to the scene in a big way. Various kinds of materials from asphalt to concrete are being used today for the construction of roads.
But new kinds of materials and styles of construction have to be evolved to meet modern requirements. Research on roads and highways plays a big role not only in making travel and transport comfortable, but in enhancing economic development of the country. The premier institution working in this area in India is the Central Road Research Institute, Delhi - Mathura Road, New Delhi-110025; Web site: www.crridom.gov.in.
CRRI is a premier national research institute in the area of roads and road transport. This constituent of CSIR is situated at the eleventh kilometre on the Delhi-Mathura Road in New Delhi. Its well-equipped modern laboratories are manned by professionals of different disciplines — engineering, physical, and social sciences. CRRI constantly endeavours to carry out research and development projects on design, construction and maintenance of roads and runways. Further, it operates in areas such as
Basic and applied research, in line with the national priorities for investigation, construction and maintenance of different types of roads and airfield runways,
Developing appropriate tools, machinery, equipment and instruments for adopting technologies related to highway engineering to achieve indigenous self-sufficiency.
Developing expertise to achieve judicious solutions for special problems
Developing specifications, labour-intensive methods and manual aids for construction of low cost, all weather village roads for under-developed regions of the country.
Management of roads in different terrains
Preparation of national standards and specifications, code of practices issued by Indian Roads Congress, Bureau of Indian Standards, Ministry of Roads Transport and Highways, and National Rural Road Development Agency.
Publication of professional journals
Research and development in all aspects of road traffic and transportation engineering, including study of accidents, development of road safety measures, psychology of road users, social safeguard and transportation economics.
Research on materials such as aggregates, bitumen, cement, with a view to effecting economy and achieving enhanced serviceability.
Research on the performance of different types of roads under varying climatic and traffic conditions.
Road traffic safety and analysis and design
Service life assessment and rehabilitation of highway and railway bridges
Studies on the utilisation of locally available materials for the economical construction and maintenance of roads and runways.
Technical and consultancy services to various user organisations in India and abroad.
Traffic and transportation planning of mega and medium cities
Training road technologists
Utilisation of industrial waste in road construction
Wind, fatigue, corrosion studies
The institute has developed adequate knowledgebase and knowledge workers in most of the areas in road research. Work assignments in the form of consultancy, contract research, and sponsored research are in full swing. Let us now look into the items of work in the different divisions in the institute.
Bridges and Structures Division: There is a lot of work of diagnostic / curative nature to be performed for the healthy maintenance and upkeep of bridges and other structures. Long term performance monitoring is an integral part of this process. Corrosion studies, wind effects, dynamic and fatigue studies of bridges and structures involve significant effort.
Flexible Pavements Division: The thrust areas include long lasting techniques for improving distressed flexible pavements, development of new and improved bituminous binders. New methods of pavement designs are evolved regularly. Development of advanced and better performing mix also gets attention.
Geo Technical Engineering Division: The areas of focus include studies on bridge foundation, landslide mitigation and hazard management, ground improvement, and geotechnical investigations and instrumentation. Often, optimum methods of soil reinforcement will have to be identified and executed.
Instrumentation Division: Instrumentation has wide applications in traffic monitoring, quality control during construction, and pavement evaluation. This division is often called up for the design and development of instrumentation to address new requirements in highway engineering. An even surface of road is considered important for ensuring safe and comfortable ride to users, and for minimising stress to vehicles. Calibration of automated road unevenness recorder (ARUR) is essential for keeping the road surface.
Pavement Evaluation Division: Traffic volume and axle load studies have to be carried out for proper management of pavements. Investigation of premature failure of road pavement, structural evaluation of pavements form parts of managing pavements. Quality audit of road works is another significant area of focus.
Road Development Planning and Management Division: This is an area that calls for an innovative approach for developing the most appropriate planning techniques. Preparation of master plan for rural roads, computerised data-base and management system for road sector, and GIS based road information and management system are being taken care of in this division. Techno-economic feasibility studies for highway projects often forms the starting point of planning new roads.
Rigid Pavements Division: Developing technologies and materials for design, construction and maintenance of rigid pavements is the primary function of this division. Design and construction of concrete pavements is an important element. Innovations in concrete technology call for substantial intellectual skills.
Traffic Engineering and Safety Division: The thrust areas include development and evaluation of intelligenttransport system (ITS), corridor improvement studies for nationalhighways & urban areas, fuel consumption experiments, interchangesdevelopment of speed-flow relationship forinter-city highways, design of traffic control devices for road andflyovers, andaccident analysis & remedial measures.
Transport Planning and Environment: R&D activities include techno-economic feasibility studiesand fuel consumption studies as part of road usercost analysis. Some of the other areas are environmental impact assessment of roads / highway projects, air and noise pollution from road transport, fuel consumption and exhaust emission studies, and noise mapping & vibration studies.