The size and ubuiquity of potholes on our roads is a significant contributor to road accidents, road accident mortality,   the high cost of vehicle maintenance, the general discomfort with road transport and the cost of maintenance of the roads. Potholes in Lagos. Potholes in NigeriaDeadly Potholes Roads of Death. 

How do we solve the problem of potholes and bad roads? 

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  • Preventing roads from going bad and developing pot holes involves

    1. Proper design of the road.

    2. Constructing the road to the design and specification

    3. Proper usage of the road

    4. Preventive and proactive maintenance.

    The first step in designing roads to last is providing proper specification of the load the road is to bear, specifying properly the soil conditions along the route and also specifying the weather conditions the road is supposed to be used under as well as the expected roughness index and life time expectation. These constraints are inputs to the design and have to be provided. The design output specifies properly the construction methods and materials that should be used and take into consideration these inputs. Many jurisdictions have formalized the design of highways. For instance, the US Federal Department of Transport has this  Specification. Hampshire county council in uk has this specification. Chinese Standards for highway and road construction are specified here.  South Africa has a comprehensive pavement construction manual.

    I am not able to locate any similar manuals or standards for road construction in Nigeria either at the state, federal or municipal levels. This is at the root of the poor road construction in Nigeria. Without standards, contractors and their supervising engineers and even the general public have nothing to measure the quality of the roads they are building against. Any thing then goes as road construction.

  • The problem of bad roads and potholes can be split into several intelerlocking problems

    1. Preventing roads from going bad or from developing potholes. Prevention

    2. Fixing potholes before they destroy the road. Pro-active maintenance.

    3. Cataloguing existing ones and having a plan for their remediation.

    Of course we have to understand that it is to the benefit of some people that roads go bad. We can identify those in this category - contractors who want to be awarded remediation or new build contracts, civil servants who will extract bribes, politicians who will extract even bigger bribes, hawkers who want to be able to sell in the traffic snarl that ensues when roads are bad, police men who use the bad roads to lay ambush, robbers and criminals who use bad sections of the road to catch their victims. The politicians and the civil servants are the most critical set of people who benefit from roads going bad. Whatever solutions that come up will partially be implemented by them and therein will lie a big pothole.

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