Rehabilitating Roads in Sri Lanka

April 16, 2014


Before (L) and after (R) pictures of NC/DM/04 - Rankethgama Meewathpura Road

Infrastructure development is paramount in order to facilitate the Government of Sri Lanka’s (GOSL) targeted growth rate of 6-8 percent over the next five years. With 19 million people, Sri Lanka has a road network of about 108,000 kilometers. It is a vital component for the movement of people and goods and as such, plays an important role in integrating the country, facilitating economic growth, and ultimately reducing poverty.

Since 2008, the Road Sector Assistance Project has resurfaced over 620 kilometers of roads, nearly 160 km of rural roads contributing to the improved condition and reduced average vehicle operating costs on national roads. The project has also piloted a rural road strategy for the entire country with the compilation of the rural road inventory, mapping as well as prioritization criteria embedded in a database with the preparation of investment plans for prioritized roads. Most importantly, the capacity for the implementation of this process has been created within the local authorities.

" We still walk to school. But it’s easier now since we have a road to get to the main road. "

Nirupa Sandamali



Nirupa (R), 13, can now walk to school without difficulty with the construction of a high-quality road

World Bank


Poor maintenance of the road network over several years has resulted in low travel speeds and hampered accessibility that is vital to increase the much needed connectivity to centers outside the Colombo Metropolitan Area. At the inception of the project, over 50 percent of the national roads were in poor and bad condition with many being seriously congested. This was reflected in the low level of investment in the rehabilitation and maintenance of the national network. Transport serves many different markets where demand patterns are shaped by demographics, industrial and social structures, trading patterns, social preferences and many other features which are changing rapidly in Sri Lanka. The transportation system therefore needs to change in order to respond. 


The Road Sector Assistance Project was designed to lower transportation costs and travel times by improving the condition of national roads, which are the backbone of Sri Lanka’s economy. This improvement would help farmers transport their produce to markets on time, increase export competitiveness, accelerate export-led growth and contribute to sustained economic development. Furthermore, the project was structured to focus on the sustainability of these investments by increasing the level of funding being channeled in to road maintenance.   

" School children can travel to school without difficulties and families don’t have to be afraid to take the sick to hospitals under emergency conditions. "

Chairman of the Neluwa Pradeshiya Sabha


Before (L) and after (R) pictures of SP/HK/01 Kudagatta- Divigalhena Road

World Bank


Since the additional credit was approved for the Road Sector Assistance Project, it has:

·         Resurfaced and improved 620 kilometers of roads.

·         Reduced the national highways in poor condition from 52 percent in 2005 to 35 percent in 2013.

·         The International Roughness Index has improved from 9.5 to 6.2.

·         Provided innovative pilot schemes for the rehabilitation of rural roads in three provinces.

·         A rural roads database created for approximately 95,000 km across 326 Pradeshiya Sabahs.

·         Encouraged the Government of Sri Lanka to increase annual maintenance investments from US$13 million in 2005, to US$30 million in 2006, and US$46 million in 2010. The GOSL contribution to maintenance for 2014 has increased to USD 64 million.

·         Average Vehicle Operating Costs for the National Highways reduced from Sri Lankan Rupees (LKR) 23.9/kilometer to LKR 14.21/kilometer.

Bank Group Contribution

In 2005, the Bank approved a US$100 million, International Development Association (IDA) credit for the Road Sector Assistance Project to finance the rehabilitation and upgrading of the country’s national highways and support the Government’s reform initiatives for financing sustainable road maintenance. Additional funding through an IDA credit of US$98 million was provided in 2008 to meet increased expenditure due to the increase in prices in oil-based construction materials due to the global oil price increases. A further USD 100 million was provided within the same project to address the rehabilitation needs of national roads in urban areas.  The continuous partnership between the Bank and the road agency has helped its move towards an improved and sustainable road network through innovative practices and culture changes.  The road agency has transformed in to an institution that is environmentally aware and socially responsible. Furthermore, it has been instrumental in penetrating the construction industry in building the capacity to embrace the present day development needs.


The Road Sector Assistant Project (RSAP) was conceived in the back drop of  a tri-partite agreement reached between the World Bank, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in November 2004 to coordinate the activities in the sector to reach medium term goals. Sector reform was undertaken around three pillars as follows: (i) strengthening the Road Development Authority (RDA); (ii) establishing a mechanism and providing sustainable funding for road maintenance financing; and (iii) developing the domestic private sector in the road industry. The World Bank still continue to take forward the sustainable road maintenance agenda whilst the responsibility of institutional strengthening and capacity building did rest with the ADB, JICA was instrumental in the development of the private sector development.

Moving Forward

The project will continue to lower transportation costs through sustainable delivery of an efficient national road system. The outcome is on track and continued support will help ensure that it is ultimately achieved. In response to the successful achievement of the Road Sector Assistance Project, the Bank will continue to support the rehabilitation and maintenance needs which are critical to the preservation of the road asset.

if roads resurfaced and improved.