US President John F. Kennedy once famously said, “American roads are good not because America is rich, but America is rich because American roads are good.” This statement was reiterated by Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari in a session of the Lok Sabha. What Gadkari meant to say was that roads are not only a means of travel, but also play an important role in the economic growth of any country. But Indian roads and Indian highways were known to be one of the most difficult and dangerous terrains to travel in the world. The Indian road network was not very popular for its connectivity, however, things have changed for the better in the last 10 years. Here’s what changed:
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speed of road construction
With the new PM Modi government taking charge in 2014 and announcing Nitin Gadkari as the Minister for Road Transport and Highways, the pace of construction has increased manifold. While in 2013, the Government of India used to build 3 km of roads a day, in 2014 it increased to 12 km per day and today, the government is building 37 km of roads a day. The Government of India aims to take this to 100 km of roads a day.
Recently, the government has achieved a major achievement of laying 100 km of highways in 100 hours. The Ghaziabad-Aligarh Expressway created history by achieving a remarkable feat: laying 100 lane kilometers of bituminous concrete in an unprecedented time of 100 hours.
expansion of road network
According to the government data, the total length of roads in India before independence was 21,378 km and in 2023 it has increased to 1,61,350 km. Due to this, experts have started calling it almost like ‘Highway Revolution in India’. Recently, India beat China to have the world’s second largest road network after the United States. Not only this, the Government of India believes that highways will play a major role in becoming a 5 trillion economy.
From building the highest motorable road at Umling La to building a 75 km long bituminous concrete road in 105 hours and 33 minutes, India has registered 6 Guinness World Records in the last 9 years. The highways sector in India has been at the forefront of performance and innovation. The government has successfully launched more than 60 road projects in India.
major road projects
Here is a look at some of the major road projects undertaken by MoRTH:
1) Bharatmala Project: A highway project is being built from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh, Himalayan states, Terai as well as parts of Manipur and Mizoram borders. The project will connect district headquarters to national highways with minimum 4-lane corridors, logistics parks to feeder routes and optimum freight traffic movement.
2) Sagarmala Yojana: This is another flagship scheme of the Government of India along with the Bharatmala Pariyojana, which aims to enhance the logistics sector by building new mega ports and connecting waterways to the coastline.
3) Delhi-Mumbai Expressway: The 25-hour road journey between Delhi and Mumbai will be reduced to 12 hours. It will be the longest expressway in India, totaling 1,386 km with 40 interchanges.
4) Delhi-Amritsar-Katra Expressway: This 648 km long expressway will connect Katra famous for Vaishno Devi with Bahadurgarh in Delhi and will also be a major route to Amritsar.
5) Ganga Expressway: This 594 kilometer long expressway will cover 12 districts of Uttar Pradesh. It will establish direct connectivity from Meerut to Prayagraj
History of Major Road Projects
But all this did not happen in a day, then how did it start? The story of highway development dates back to 1995, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee laid the foundation of the first four to six-lane National Highway, also known as the Golden Quadrilateral, and breathed life into the National Highways Authority of India in 1995. The Golden Quadrilateral or “GQ” was the first dream project of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and is considered to be the largest infrastructure program in the highway sector in independent India.
This network forms a quadrilateral connecting all the four major metropolitan cities of India, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai. The National Highway Development Program was largely modeled on the National Highway System of the United States.