The 6.5 million population of PNG spread over a land area of about 462,000 square kilometers (km) is connected by a network of 8,500 km of national roads and over 20,000 km of provincial and district roads. The bulk of the population (85%) lives in rural areas. The road network on the mainland is not fully integrated due to rugged mountains, major rivers and rainforests requiring air and marine transport to access unconnected areas. Similarly, the islands are connected by air and shipping lines. However, most of the population depends heavily on road transport for their livelihood, economic and social activities.
Owing to the rugged terrain and geographic and climatic conditions, PNG has a relatively large number of bridges for the size of the road network. It is estimated that there are over 700 bridges on the national road network. A large proportion of these are single-lane Bailey bridges that were used due to low-cost and faster deployment during early stages of development of the national road network. Due to limited load carrying capacity, increasing traffic volume and deterioration over time, the Bailey bridges have become a safety risk and weak link in the PNG two-lane national road system. Although the Government, with support of development partners, is actively improving and upgrading the roads, there has not been much investment for improvement of bridges. In view of the large number of bridges involved, a longterm program is needed to gradually replace the Bailey and other deteriorated bridges starting with the 16 priority national roads.
The Project offers a comprehensive bridge replacement program. A sector approach is adopted to provide flexibility in implementation. Detailed selection criteria have been developed to assign priority to bridges that are to be replaced. Based on available financing and ease of contract packaging, bridges will be selected from the prioritized list. The Project is the first phase of implementation of the program and includes five priority national roads identified by DOW. It is envisaged that the scope of the Project will be up-scaled in future to include all 16 priority roads by financing subsequent phases through ADB's Additional Financing Policy.
The Bailey bridges that are removed from the national roads and are in useable condition will be reassembled on selected rural roads that lack bridges for crossing streams and rivers. This will improve accessibility of the rural population to markets, livelihood opportunities, education and health facilities. The improved connectivity of rural roads with the national roads will enhance the effectiveness of the overall road network bringing higher economic returns from increased traffic.
Road safety is a major issue in PNG. The high fatality rate of 45 road deaths per 10,000 vehicles in PNG is one of the worst in the Western Pacific region. About 37% of the deaths are to pedestrians. Rural areas have a much higher number of crashes and fatalities and serious injuries. The National Road Safety Council (NRSC) was established in 2007 to advise and coordinate road safety activities. Despite limited resources, NRSC has been actively pursuing road safety initiatives, particularly awareness campaigns, in and around the capital city of Port Moresby which has the largest urban population. Similar initiatives are needed in the rural areas where 85% of the population resides and the accident rate is high.
The DOW's road asset management system and BAMS were established in 2003 and 2005, respectively, for systematic management of the PNG road network. DOW relies on the provincial staff to collect and update the database on a regular basis. However, due to shortage of staff and financial resources, data collection has been irregular and fragmented. Over time, the database has become outdated and is of little use for planning and operations. To make effective use of BAMS, there is a need to improve the database.
The PNG's Strategic Vision 2050, the Development Strategic Plan (DSP; 2011-2030) and the Medium Term Development Plan (MTDP; 2011-2015) emphasize lack of transport infrastructure as a constraint for PNG's economic and social development. The trade and economic development targets in DSP and MTDP requires considerable growth in the coverage and quality of the national road network. The 10 economic corridors for integrated development in DSP coincide with the 16 priority national roads. Improvements on these roads will have a direct impact on economic development. Effective service delivery and income opportunities for the 85% rural population are key priorities. Improved accessibility of rural road networks will open up markets, increase agricultural profitability, facilitate market chain linkage with downstream processing and export markets and expand health services.
The bridge replacement program is included in the existing National Transport Development Plan (2006-2010) but could not be implemented due to resource constraints. A long-term National Transport Strategy (NTS 2011-2030) is under preparation to support the DSP and will become effective on completion. NTS supports the bridge replacement program by emphasizing the desirable/minimum level of service for the national roads where narrow Bailey bridges are considered below standard and a safety and security risk. The Government is keen to proceed with the replacement of temporary Bailey and other deteriorated bridges on the national roads with permanent structures. This is reflected in the ADB's Country Partnership Strategy (2011-2015) and the Country Operations Business Plan (2011-2012).