Development of a Sustainable Management System for Rural Road Networks in Developing Countries
Chamorro Gine, Marcela Alondra
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Rural roads play a crucial role in the economic and social development of societies, linking rural communities to education, health services and markets. During the last decade, considerable efforts have been made to evaluate the benefits of rural road investment in developing countries. Although outputs of these studies have led to a global rethinking of traditional road appraisal methods, limited attempts have been made to integrate these findings to the rural road management process. For the sustainable management of rural roads, social, institutional, technical, economic and environmental aspects should be considered under a long term perspective. The current practice in developing countries is that only some of these key sustainable aspects are being considered in the management process. In addition, rural roads maintenance management is commonly performed under a short term basis, not considering the life cycle costs and benefits in the economic analysis and project prioritization. Available management tools and studies have essentially focused their efforts on improving technical and economic aspects of low-volume roads. Whereas, the common practice observed in face of limited resources and lack of technical skills is that decisions are made under a political short term perspective. This research is directed at the development of an applied and practical system for the sustainable management of rural road networks in developing countries. The approach considers the development of all components required by the proposed management system and their integration into a practical and easy-to-use computer tool. To achieve this goal a sustainable framework for rural roads management was first developed, where system components and modules were defined. A network level condition evaluation methodology was selected and validated. Long term condition performance models were calibrated from the probabilistic analysis of field data. Optimal maintenance standards were developed under a cost-effectiveness approach. A long term prioritization procedure was developed to account for sustainable aspects of rural roads in the management process. A computer tool was finally developed to integrate the system components and display them in a friendly interface for potential users. The tool was programed in Visual Basic, considering Microsoft Excel interface. The computer tool considers the four system components: Input Data, System Modules, Network Analysis Interface and Output Data. System Modules include Condition Performance Module, Network Maintenance Module and Long Term Prioritization Module. For each of the system components and modules a separate worksheet has been included in the computer tool. The tool is centered on the Network Analysis Interface, which interacts with the other three system components. The user enters network data in the Input Data interface and may adjust information in System Modules considered if the network under study has differences to predefined conditions of. Adjustments to System Modules can be performed by the user, however it is advised that prior calibration is required for the successful analysis of the network. The management system was applied and validated in two rural road networks in developing countries located in Chile and Paraguay. Sensitivity analysis was carried out to assess the impacts of input parameters in the performance of developed system. As a result of the research an adaptable and adoptable sustainable management system for rural networks was developed to assist local road agencies in developing countries.