‘60% of S’gor roads have ‘expired’’

A trailer slows as it drives by a pothole in Lebuhraya Pulau Indah. Overloaded heavy vehicles are a major contributor to road defects as they cause significant damage and shorten the lifespan of roads. - Filepic

SOME 60% of roads in Selangor are “expired” and many are structurally damaged, causing issues such as potholes and cracks to be a never-ending problem.

State infrastructure and public amenities, agricultural modernisation and agro-based industry committee chairman Izham Hashim said many of these roads were between 30 and 40 years old and past due for an upgrade.

“Roads usually reach maturity within 15 to 20 years, depending on usage.

“After this period, upgrading works have to be done, particularly to the subgrade and sub-base layers, ” he said.

He stressed that unless this was done, temporary measures like road patching would not help improve road conditions.

He noted that another main contributor to frequent road defects were overloaded vehicles, which caused more significant damage and shorten the lifespan of roads.

Izham added that these problems were compounded by the fact that a road might fall under the jurisdiction of several agencies, which could cause delays in resolving road issues.

Izham has proposed restructuring the ownership and maintenance of roads to fall under only two agencies.Izham has proposed restructuring the ownership and maintenance of roads to fall under only two agencies.

In Selangor, there are five authorities responsible for roads: Federal Public Works Department (JKR) -- federal roads, Selangor JKR -- state roads, local councils -- council roads, district offices -- village roads and Drainage and Irrigation Department -- agricultural roads.

Highways fall under the jurisdiction of the Malaysian Highway Authority and project concessionaire.

“Because there are many agencies involved, issues such as budget constraints and lack of communication delay road maintenance.

“Local councils and Selangor JKR have an allocated yearly budget to fix roads under Marris (Malaysian Road Record Information System) fund, whereas there is no such system for federal roads, ” said Izham.

In 2019, he had proposed to restructure the ownership and maintenance of roads in Selangor to fall under only two agencies — the local councils and the state JKR.

However, the process was slow and discussions were still under way, he said.

Finding solutions

Jurisdiction issues aside, the state is keen to resolve the issue when it comes to ageing roads.

Izham said the state government was working with Selangor JKR to identify roads that were structurally damaged and a timeline had been scheduled to repair them.

He estimated that it would take at least 10 years to properly fix several thousand kilometres of damaged roads.

“We cannot wait until we have enough funds to carry out the repairs on all the roads, it must be done in phases.

“At the same time, we are also building more roads so we cannot dedicate all the funds to upgrading, ” he pointed out.

He highlighted that priority would be given to high-usage roads and based on the number of complaints.

He noted that repair costs were difficult to estimate as it would depend on the size of the road, conditions and materials.

Addressing increased road digging to move cables or upgrade utility systems, Izham said stricter penalties were being considered in acting against irresponsible contractors.

“Subpar remedial works by contractors, especially those hired by utility and development companies, have contributed to the problem.

“In 50% of the cases, local councils had to forfeit contractors’ deposits because of shoddy work, ” he disclosed.

To prevent roads from being dug up repeatedly, the government hopes to introduce the Selangor Utility Corridor, where utility lines such as electricity, water supply pipes and even Internet cables would be laid in a common underground trench by the side of the road. “For now, this will be possible in new areas and development.

“For existing utility lines under roads, it will take massive effort to relocate them and space is limited in many areas.

“In the meantime, the state has plans to introduce new methods in road repairs and maintenance, ” said Izham.

He explained: “Jet and thermal patcher machines are two options being considered to fix potholes and cracks.

“The jet patcher does not require cutting of the road; instead, it coats the pothole with a heated bitumen emulsion which seals the pothole.

“A thermal patcher uses a heated metal plate to soften existing bitumen before a new bitumen mix is used to fill the hole.”

One novel method being explored, he said, was the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in drones for continuous monitoring of potholes and cracks.

“The drone embedded with AI can pick out potholes and other road defects and relay the information to our command centre.

“We are currently testing the new technology to determine its effectiveness and viability, ” said Izham.

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