India plans to widen bridges across highways

The ministry proposes to have uniform norms for shoulders (paved and earthen) in all types of highways. (Photo: Mint)
The ministry proposes to have uniform norms for shoulders (paved and earthen) in all types of highways. (Photo: Mint)


  • The move will escalate the cost of building new highway stretches with provision for uniform shoulders, but will likely improve road safety.

New Delhi: The government is planning to widen all bridges running across highways to make them as wide as the highways themselves.

Narrowing road bridges across highways are often blamed for vehicles crashing through parapets and crash barriers. The move will escalate the cost of building new highway stretches with provision for uniform shoulders.

The Union ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) has issued a draft circular proposing that all highway routes maintain the width of surface highways at par with bridges and other structures along a stretch.

The ministry proposes to have uniform norms for shoulders (paved and earthen) in all types of highways including two-, four-, six- and eight-lane highways with the width of the shoulder being kept at 2.5 metres.

At present, for 2-lane highways, the width of shoulders in open country and isolated built-up area in plain and rolling terrain is a lot narrower at 1.5 metres and 1.0 metre respectively. This leaves little space to park broken-down vehicles and leads to congestion on highways and accidents.

“It is highly desirable that the width of shoulder should be sufficient to protect pavement edge break, parking of errant/broken down vehicles, sufficient offset for placing of safety barrier etc. To serve all the intended functions mentioned above in cost-effective manner, it has been decided that in two/four/six-laning of national highways, width of paved shoulder and earthen shoulder shall be a total of 2.5 metres (entire paved shoulder of 2.5 metres for roads in build-up areas and approaches to grade separated areas)," the MoRTH draft circular said.

The circular further reads: “It is utmost important to have continuity & uniformity of roadway width (Carriageway Width+ Paved Shoulder Width+ Earthen Shoulder Width + Shyness for raised Median Kerb/depressed Median) in approaches to bridges/grade separated structures/RoBs as well as clear deck width of structures to avoid vehicles crashes with parapets/crash barrier. Thus, Full Carriageway, Paved shoulder, Earthen shoulder, and Shyness for raised Median Kerb/depressed Median should continue on bridge...Wherever footpath is provided for bridge, RCC Crash Barrier should be provided between footpath and carriageway and pedestrian guard rail at outer edges of the bridge."

“The proposal to widen bridges across all highways to bring its width at par with highways running at ground level is a welcome move. Narrow bridges or bridges which have width lesser than highways at ground level have been leading to vehicles crashing into parapet walls and barriers. With time the development of our highways has led to an increase in the average speed of vehicles plying on the highways and to the increase of vehicles on the highways. So it is important from a safety point of view and as well as smooth and swift movement of traffic to ensure that the bridges on highways are of the same width as the roads running at ground level," Arun Kumar, partner, Induslaw said.

This proposal will increase the cost of construction, especially since most highways are either 6-lane or in the process of being converted to 6-lane. There will be an increase in cost in ongoing projects for augmenting the width of existing bridges or to build wider bridges on new highways that are under development. The cost and time for construction could go up significantly for expansion of railway ROBs (road over bridge) or RUBs (road under bridge) and major bridges across rivers etc, he added.

MoRTH intends to finalize the circular on width of shoulders on national highways in a months' time and the changes would be applicable for all new projects for which bids are invited after 60 days of issue of the circular. However, it is expected that the changes would also be incorporated in existing highway stretches in phases to ensure uniformity in design.

According to MoRTH, 461,312 road accidents were reported by Police Departments of States and Union Territories (UTs) during the calendar year 2022, claiming 168,491 lives – the highest in the world -- and injuring 443,366.

A total of 151,997 (32.9%) accidents took place on the National Highways (NH), 106,682 (23.1%) on State Highways (SH) and the remaining 202,633 (43.9%) on other roads. Out of the total of 168,491 fatalities, 61,038 (36.2%) were on National Highways, 41,012 (24.3%) on State Highways and 66,441 (39.4%) on other roads. As many as 155,781 fatal accidents were reported in 2022, of which 55,571 (35.7%) were on National Highways, 37,861 (24.3%) were on State Highways and 62,349 (40%) were on Other Roads.

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