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roads

Do better roads really improve lives?

Eric Lancelot's picture

How can improved roads change peoples’ lives? How much do people benefit from road projects? Answering these seemingly simple questions is, in fact, much trickier than it appears.

We recently concluded an impact evaluation to measure the socio-economic impacts of World Bank-financed municipal road improvements on poor rural households in the state of Tocantins, Brazil. After 10 years of study, what were the results and lessons learned? And how did we go about conducting the evaluation?

The study followed a methodology traditionally used in impact evaluations in the social sector and was based on a precedent in Vietnam. Throughout the state, one of the least-developed and least-populated in Brazil, most municipal roads are unpaved with inadequate maintenance. The World Bank’s municipal roads project helped construct 700 concrete bridges and 2,100 culverts crossing rivers and streams, providing year-round access to remote populations that once couldn’t access municipal centers during rainy season.

The anticipated result chain of the project was as follows: improvement of physical accessibility would contribute to increase travel demand to markets, schools and health services. This would, in turn, contribute to improved education, better health and increased business opportunities. Finally, it would result in long-term household income growth.

Our study aimed at measuring these impacts through a “difference in differences with matching,” a method that compares a treatment group (population benefiting from the interventions) and a control group (population that does not), while ensuring similar socio-economic characteristics (or comparability) between groups. An “instrumental variables estimator” was then used to confirm the robustness of the results.

The results show positive socio-economic impacts to rural residents, as well as provides for several policy implications:

Small changes, big savings: Innovation at work on Indian roads

Ashok Kumar's picture
One of the key issues in transportation is the ability to get both the wonderful advantages that a new road brings to a village, while being cost effective and environmentally and socially responsible. For example, when a village in India finally gets a paved road, life becomes freer, safer, and more prosperous. A new road that connects a rural village opens the local economy to new opportunities.

​Additionally, farmers can travel farther to sell their produce and get better prices, children can go to schools more easily and, migrants who go elsewhere to work can come back to their families. For many years, this transformation was limited to larger villages. Until the year 2000, only about 300,000 Indian villages — half of the total amount of villages — had a main road. In recent years, state and federal governments have grown increasingly ambitious and are now working towards the goal of providing road links to even the smallest of villages.

Roads and the Environment: Lessons from the Yiba Expressway

Chris Bennett's picture

My last project in China before transferring to Europe and Central Asia in 2008 was the Yichang-Badong (Yiba) expressway. This was a US$ 2.2 billion expressway through very challenging terrain, including the ‘Three Gorges National Park’. 
 
It was massive—as evidenced by the following:

  • 172 km of expressways and 35.4 km of inter-connecting roads
  • 148 bridges for a total length of 70 km
  • 75 tunnels for a total length of 61 km
  • 3.75 million m3 of earthworks
  • US$ 12.6 million/km
Faced with these challenges, including the longest tunnel of 7.5 km, the Hubei provincial government was concerned about the potential negative environmental impact of the project. These concerns were echoed by some at the Bank who I recall saying ‘why on earth would you want to put an expressway through a national park?’

The answer was quite simple. The expressway was going ahead with or without the World Bank’s involvement. The Hubei government wanted the Bank to assist them in making the project an example of how to construct an expressway through an environmentally sensitive area with minimal impacts. Management fully supported this and I was tasked with helping realize this vision, although unfortunately I was not involved with the implementation.

Let’s make transport the solution!

Virginia Tanase's picture

This seems to be a good time to stop blaming transport for all the World’s snags and start looking for simple ways of maximizing the benefits of this tool. Yes, you read it right: transport is a tool, for itself it does not create but adds value to goods and services moved where they are needed.

Building Climate Resilience into Timor Leste’s Roads

Chris Bennett's picture

The only thing worse than taking 5 hours to drive 106 km along winding and often damaged mountainous roads, is the realization that having reached your destination you have to turn around and repeat the trip to get home. That was in the forefront of my mind as I sat in the very quiet town of Ainaro, south of the capital in Dili.

In Ethipia all roads lead to development

Anna Barbone's picture

In the 1990s, the government of Ethiopia knew that a major expansion of the road network was a sine qua non for its development goals―namely, (a) advance the private sector; (b) upgrade and expand essential infrastructure; and (c) conserve the environment.

Rehabilitating roads.... one SMS at a time...

Chris Bennett's picture

The SMS message was “Drainage is not being done properly in the village Achajur. Please fix.” While it was disturbing to hear that there were problems in one of the projects I was responsible for, at the same time I was very encouraged since this proved the value of an SMS-based system we developed to facilitate local residents advising on social, environmental or engineering issues on our project.

I will see you after the rainy season...

and this is no joke.  Some time ago, I travelled to rural Nepal to supervise joint DFID/World Bank work in improving access to remote communities. To reach the first village, Dailekh, we took a morning flight from Kathmandu and then drove for many hours. The further we travelled, the more uneven and less engineered the roads became, until the last ten miles to our destination were mere mud tracks. Night fell, the roads grew dark, and rain began to fall.

Road safety is everyone's responsibility. Mine too.

Said Dahdah's picture

Here is a quiz question for you: "You are driving on a highway and you suddenly realize that you just missed the intended exit ramp. What would you do?"  Most people would hopefully say “Go to the next exit ramp.” However, as we recently found out, 12% of truck drivers in China said: “Back up or turn-around to the missed exit ramp.”

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