Engineers have pointed to poor construction and delayed maintenance as the likely causes of the defects being experienced on Masaka-Kampala highway barely six years after its reconstruction.
This comes barely hours after a nasty experience involving travelers plying the western route, most of those returning from the countryside after celebrating Christmas.
On Saturday night, hundreds of travelers spent several hours on the road after it caved in at Lwera near Lukaya Town.
Prior to the Saturday experience, several defects had been recorded on the same road, which was upgraded to Grade II bituminous surface in 2013 at the tune of Shillings 103 billion. The first major defect was reported in the Lwera section still.
On assessing the situation, Engineers from Uganda National Roads Authority-UNRA who initially thought that the culverts could had been compressed were extremely surprised to find that the road was burnishing underneath. A similar incident happened in Kalandazi section last month.
Badru Kiggundu, a seasoned Civil Engineer, Academic and Consultant, says most of the defects that manifest reflect the mistakes that could have been done during the designing or construction phases. He says while designing a road, every aspect is looked at even giving room for possible future changes but this couldn’t have been catered for.
According to Eng Kiggundu, the reported scouring and curving could be due to subsurface water, which might have not been anticipated in the construction and is now flowing into the structure of the road eating away some components including the roadbed. He says during the design stage there should be strong design features put in place to handle such incidents.
Sam Mwesigwa, another proficient Engineer in Wakiso, notes that the designers could have failed to put appropriate features in areas where they were needed. He cites a number of wetland sections, which might require a strong base to sustain pressure.
Eng. Kiggundu, who fairly agrees with Mwesigwa, notes that he cannot blame engineers given the fact that the contractor could have needed bigger culverts but used smaller ones because of limited resources.
The equation of culvert used by the contractor was also highlighted by UNRA highway specialist Moses Ochole during a stakeholder’s meeting in Greater Masaka. Ochole observed that there are possibilities that the contractor unknowingly used faulty culverts.
The road works done in two phases was executed by Reynolds Construction Company-RCC. In the same development, Eng. Mwesigwa also points to delayed maintenance of the road as another challenge. He says there is need for regular maintenance given the huge traffic and weather changes.
It was not until defects appeared that UNRA started clearing some of the sections, which had narrowed due to the growing vegetation on the roadside. In a recent interview, Allan Ssempwewa, the UNRA Media Manager told this reporter that they (UNRA) were looking at the possibility of accessing the entire road to look out for areas that need urgent attention for redress before more damage is done.
Road users are blaming the defects on people farming and mining sand in the wetland where most of the affected sections are found. Isaac Mugerwa, a motorist notes that the activities have affected the water flow and thus weakened the road.
“Left and right people are destroying the wetland ad I end water ca flow thus flooding at one particular point ad in end the road will just curve in,” Mugerwa says adding that the worst fear is that the road tens to curve in during light which put road user at risk as they can unknowingly bump into the pothole.