Paving the Future roads of Zimbabwe.
With higher thrust on infrastructure development over the last couple of years, the road construction industry is undergoing a paradigm shift especially in most progressive countries.
New and emerging technologies are reshaping the dynamics of road construction with a renewed focus on sustainable development which use of recycled materials, plastic wastes, self-healing asphalt, etc. In addition, the usage of automation and machine-control technologies is growing rapidly, prompting the OEMs to bring in advanced and intelligent road construction technologies to improve the quality of construction. Further, advanced technologies in highway development and management, such asproject monitoring information systems, intelligent transport and traffic management systems, enable project monitoring, higher traffic efficiency, real-time vehicle tracking and incident management.
Roads have always been vital infrastructure for a country as they enable efficient transportation of freight and people. With higher thrust on infrastructure development over the last couple of years, the road construction industry in Zimbabwe needs to undergoing a paradigm shift. Robust demand, higher investments and significant policy support are changing the face of the sector. The focus on the road and highway construction industry is expected to grow for the next five years. The government has taken ample initiatives in the recent past to tackle concerns related to land acquisition revival of languishing projects, introduction of innovative project financing and time bound resolution of disputes in an affordable manner.
The increase in the number of road vehicles and the subsequent rise in traffic volumes and axle loads speed up developments like congestions, wear and tear of structure and air pollutions have led to adopting the of new and innovative technologies which are long lasting and cost effective. The government has constantly emphasized on usage of more innovative techniques and materials for faster and better-quality construction of roads and highways. With rapid growth in the sector and increasing traffic, further improvement in applied technologies will
be required to counter the various challenges that exist in the sector such as cost overruns, safety issues, blocks to land acquisition, flaws in design and planning, environmental concerns, etc. Many researchers and scientists around the world are currently working on new and improved innovative technologies in road construction. In some cases, various advanced technologies are being tested as pilot projects around the world and require further research and analysis for conceptualization.
There are a number of new and emerging technologies that can help a project achieve the above three parameters. For instance, use of plastic waste in bituminous pavement has numerous advantages such as higher resistance to deformation, increased durability and improved fatigue life and better stability and strength. Self-healing concrete and intelligent compaction are other emerging technologies in the area of road construction materials and machines. Smart highways, intelligent transport management solutions, advanced traffic management systems, project monitoring information system, etc. are some of the notable technological developments that can improve the operations and management. For road construction and development to have a sustained growth, the projects should be able to achieve the following three parameters:
a) they should be environment friendly
b) they should have faster construction rate; and
c) they should have a more efficient lifecycle cost management.
However, achieving all the three simultaneously for a project may be difficult. It can achieve either two with an adverse impact on the third or, in some cases, only one. There are a number of new and emerging technologies that can help a project achieve the above three parameters. For instance, use of plastic waste in bituminous pavement has numerous advantages such as higher resistance to deformation, increased durability and improved fatigue life and better stability and strength. Self-healing concrete and intelligent compaction are other emerging technologies in the area of road construction materials and machines. Smart highways, intelligent transport management solutions, advanced traffic management systems, project monitoring information system, etc. are some of the notable technological developments that can improve the operations and management. In order to tackle the increasing traffic load on Zimbabwean roads and to overcome various challenges such as cost overruns, new materials, processes and technologies will have to be developed further. For this, the government
should encourage more research and development in these areas. However, cost, bureaucratic interferences and sustainability are some of the major concerns that can potentially drive or obstruct applicability of such technologies.
Post which the development and construction activities could reduce progressively and in parallel increasing focus and steps towards quality operations and end user experience would become critical. Enhanced use of technology applications, adoption of safety solutions, linked non-toll revenues for sustainable holistic experience that includes quality way-side facilities, regular maintenance and upkeep of infrastructure, resilient and sustainable assets for augmenting finances would become par for the course.
Some of the clear growth drivers for the sector are focus on smooth traffic movement and enhancement of logistics efficiency through multi-modal integration, high levels of technology adoption and moving to a digitalized nation-wide asset base. Road safety and user experience, with citizen centricity as a focus, while institutional integration of transport departments, adoption of e-mobility as a service and integrated payment mechanisms to ensure seamless operations are also underway, presenting opportunities for the roads and highways sector to evolve and come to par with global standards. The future trend indicate that the road construction will increase in Zimbabwe and new technologies will be required to fulfil this need.