Road Construction 101

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Working in transport development, you will usually find me with engineers. I am not an engineer by training, so while my job description does not include evaluating construction quality, I am often along for the ride on lengthy site visits and get rapid tutorials on construction. It’s nice to see this part of development, especially since the things I work on (evaluating economic and social impacts of roads) are deeply related to road quality.  I’ve been shown how to measure road quality of a low-volume (low traffic) rural road, with some highlights below.  I hope my father and sister (trained civil engineers) aren’t cringing from this synopsis.

You’ll also notice some pretty big local audiences in the pictures, as these tests usually draw a crowd in rural areas.  At first I wondered, “Why do they want to sit in the sun and watch this?” But then remembered how it felt when I lived in a rural village for a summer in the Domincan Republic, where you had literally two shacks to buy candy or crackers at, and just mostly amused yourselves.  I imagined what I would have thought after hearing that a World Bank entourage had come in to inspect some local road construction – yep, I would put on some pants for that.

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The density of a road is critical to the durability and life of the road. You can meaure this by weighing a fixed amount of earth removed by driving a cylinder into the ground.

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Road material should be an even mix of large (like rocks) and small (like sand) material across the road to avoid breakages.  These differesnt sized grates are used to separate fine and coarse material, which is then also weighed.

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