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Puducherry highway to be runway for fighters

YB WEB DESK. Dated: 2/2/2018 8:03:23 PM

If things crystallise as per the plans of the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), a 5km-stretch on the Puducherry-Tindivanam national highway will be converted into an airstrip to facilitate landing of fighter aircraft during emergencies.

IAF and NHAI have identified the 5km-stretch from Pullichapallam (14km from Puducherry) and Ozhunthiyapet (19km from Puducherry) on the 40km-long Puducherry-Tindivanam NHfor the project to be implemented at a cost of Rs 74.36 crore. NHAI has invitedbidstoexecutethe project within a year.

"The section of the highway where the airstrip is proposed must be as straight as an arrow without any aerial obstructions like electric posts, poles, trees and buildings. A team comprising of IAF and NHAI officials inspected the highway and selected the project site (between Pullichapallam and Ozhunthiyapet) last year," said a district official.

The concrete airstrip will come up on the 3.5km-stretch of the 5km-project site with facilities to erect 750m-long barricadeson either sideof the airstrip to block traffic if need be. The entire 3.5km-stretch, which was designed and laid as per the Indian road congress' standardstohandle road trafficup to 30 million standard axles (MSA), will be dug out and be re-laid with concrete of 1.2m thicknesstohandletraffic of not less than 100 MSA to facilitate landing and takeoff of aircraft.

The proposed airstrip will have five layers laid as per specific guidelines with different combinations of designing and construction materials.

Compacted subgrade (native material below the pavement) will form the base of the airstrip over which a layer of wet mix macadam - WMM - (laying and compacting clean, crushed, graded aggregate and granular material, premixed with water) will be laid.

Dry lean concrete (without polythene film) will be laid above it. WMM with a topping of dry lean concrete (with polythene film) will form the next layer, over which pavement-quality concrete will be laid to form the surface of the airstrip.

A 35m-bridge willbedemolished and constructed again withthe requiredstrength and durability to facilitate landing and takeoff of fighter jets. Eightbox culvertsthat are 25m wide on the 3.5km-stretch will be extended to 37m.

"The idea is to establish facilities for emergency landing of fighter aircraft on national and state highways to aidin rescueoperations during emergencies," saidtheofficial.

The residents along the Puducherry-Tindivanam NH were not aware of the proposed airstrip.

A cross-section of peopleon learning about the project welcomed the development provided it does not affect their movement or livelihood.

"It is a good move. After the 2004 tsunami wreaked havoc along the coast claiming lives of hundreds of people and cattle and damaging properties worth several crores of rupees in the coastal hamlets of Puducherry and Tamil Nadu, peopleunderstand the needfor swift rescue, relief and rehabilitation measures.

The airstrip will ensure that the rescue and relief teams will reach the affected parts in no time," said K Raju, a resident of Pullichapallam village.

People owning land along the highway will not be affected as major portions of the highway have the required width of 60m for the project. Only on a few segments, the width of the highway narrows down to 57m and the NHAI may acquire less than 3m land at those very few portions, that too, if necessary.


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