Supervision and support on the challenges faced in the ECO-135 Project

Brazil’s road transport infrastructure sector has a lot to improve, as one of the determining factors for the country’s growth, given that it is the main means of transporting production in our modal matrix, and is largely responsible for transporting cargo and people. Most highways are not in good enough condition to meet the needs of national transportation, which means that the entire production chain, both domestic and export logistics, is hampered. This scenario reflects the lack of investment in the transportation infrastructure sector over the last few decades.

SYSTRA specializes in consultancy and engineering in the mobility and transport infrastructure sector, and plays a crucial role in the maintenance, conservation, and expansion of the country’s road system, taking part in various road infrastructure projects.

Over the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to take part in several projects for SYSTRA. Among the projects already completed and those underway, today I would like to highlight the activities carried out in the General Supervision Support project for the ECO135 Concessionaire, a partnership signed between SYSTRA and the DER/MG.

The concession stretch is formed by the BR-135, MG-231 and LMG-754 highways, with a total length of approximately 364 kilometers. This is an extremely important economic stretch in the state of Minas Gerais, and one of the main means of connecting the north-central region of the state.

Despite all SYSTRA’s experience and expertise, every project has its particularities and challenges, and this one was no different. Our challenge was to help with the demands of supporting the concession’s inspection, from conservation activities on the road network granted to monitoring road expansion works and other assets leased along the domain strip.

To summarize, the stretches of road under concession were poorly maintained, mainly in terms of the paving and road protection and safety elements. As the process of restoring the road sections would require several interventions, the inspection team worked hard on a daily basis to monitor the services, from minor damage to the paving to more complex issues related to road safety. The proactive approach of the inspection team aims to anticipate potential problems, guaranteeing the rapid implementation of corrective measures and thus preserving the integrity of the infrastructure. Throughout our activities, we monitor the condition of the road surface, signalization and protection elements, drainage devices, among others, in accordance with the guidelines for monitoring and inspection projects, set out in the manual for the Highway Operation Program (PER) and the Inspection Manual for Concessioned Federal Highways.

In addition to routine maintenance activities, the SYSTRA team is also involved in overseeing the concession’s expansion works, one of the largest road projects underway in Brazil. These improvements include the construction of 136 kilometers of dual lanes, 110 kilometers of additional lanes, the implementation of the Montes Claros Ring Road, the implementation of pedestrian walkways, access improvements, among others.

Since this was one of the first stretches of road under concession in the state, we encountered several challenges during the development of the project, especially regarding the processes for managing the non-conformities identified. Once irregularities have been detected, a bureaucratic process begins, involving extensive documentation and records to be forwarded to the competent authority. This bureaucracy, due to the formalities required, results in a significant time lag. Not only did this delay represent an operational challenge for the company, but it also exposed users to potential risks and discomfort, since the safety and quality conditions of the highway could be compromised while they waited for the issues identified to be resolved.

Therefore, to improve and provide greater security in inspection data, we contributed to the development of a highway inspection application in partnership with DER/MG and SEINFRA. The application provides us with greater security, reliability and agility in data processing, and its monitoring is carried out through georeferencing, which provides greater security and agility in submitting the inspection data compiled by the inspection teams.

Presently, the concession stretch is in a better condition than it was at the start of the projects, as a result of the various improvements implemented as identified by the inspection teams, highlighting the reduction in accidents, especially severe ones, which have occurred over the last few years along the stretch under concession.

Additionally, the stretch currently has around 90 kilometers of dual lanes cleared for traffic in the Curvelo region, between the junction of the BR135 and the BR-040 up to the city of Corinto. We would also like to point out that the stretch has already been improved with additional lanes and pedestrian walkways.

Although challenging, Brazil has great potential to improve the country’s road system, whether by investing in data integration, staff training, public-private collaboration or innovation in materials and public awareness. These measures are promising and can optimize the process towards a safer and more efficient road transport system.

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