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The Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA) rolled out a second design manual for low volume roads at a workshop held at Hilton Hotel on Tuesday November 18.

The manual replaced the original one, created in 2011 which developed standards for constructing roads linking rural areas with access roads.

Over the last few years the government has been aggressively working to link all the kebeles in Ethiopia to main access roads through a project called the Universal Rural Roads Access Program (URRAP).

Robert Geddes, Civil Eng of Civil Design Solution participated in designing the manual. He told Capital that significant revisions have occurred in this new manual.

“The current design manual will have several additional inputs,” Araya Girmay Director General of ERA, told Capital.

As few as 300 cars a day may drive on these low volume roads but they are crucial for connecting rural residents to markets, social centers and highways. “These roads have to be constructed in a cost effective and durable manner. A well written design manual really helps regional road authorities, project owners and supervisors,” an expert said.

The design manual was financed by UKAID and was developed under the African Community Access Partnership (AfCAP), which is a six-year research program for the rural transport sectors of Africa, funded by UKAid, running from 2014 to 2020.

The program follows the AfCAP 1 program which lasted from 2008-2014. It included research on design standards and maintaining low traffic rural roads and transportation services in rural areas. The program looks to put research into practical use.

Robert said that the new manual places more emphasis on low volume road maintenance because the in the past decade the government has invested a huge amount of money to construct rural roads throughout Ethiopia using the URRAP Program.

“The design manual enables us to undertake efficient and sustainable projects so regional road agencies and engineers can consider all aspects and factors contributing to performance of the roads, including the design standards, construction technology and maintenance regime,” Geddes explained.

“If this guidance is followed it should result in good road conditions in Ethiopia worth the money we paid for it,” he added.

“We have some concerns about the quality of construction but it is up to the road agencies, contractors and engineers,” he explained.

Quality has been one of the major issues of concern for URRAP projects, according to experts. “This issue has to be solved by the responsible government bodies like regional road authorities and supervisors,” an expert added.