ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Board of Directors has approved $140 million in loans to help improve provincial road networks and enhance road safety and road maintenance management in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in northwest Pakistan.

"Roads play a crucial role not only in Pakistan's economy and development, but also in people's productivity and daily lives, with land transport the main mode of mobility in the country," said Jiangbo Ning, Principal Transport Specialist at ADB's Central and West Asia Department.

"ADB's support for this project will help the government develop the provincial road network in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, improving economic conditions, productivity, and connectivity in the province."

Road transport dominates Pakistan's transport system, with almost 96% of freight traffic and 92% of passenger traffic passing through the road networks.

 Provincial roads, like those in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, connect district centers with the national highway network and are vital in facilitating trade as well as providing access to health, education, and other public services.

The Provincial Roads Improvement Project will rehabilitate eight road sections in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with a total length of 214 kilometers (km) to meet provincial highway standards, while also improving road safety and providing climate resilience features to withstand potential damage from floods and other natural disasters.

The project will also implement two pilot performance-based maintenance contracts covering about 104 km of provincial roads to help in the maintenance and operations of the road assets.

These types of contracts change the role of a contractor from being a project executor to road asset manager. It will also help strengthen capacity of relevant government agencies including the Pakhtunkhwa Highways Authority.

Total cost of the project is $164 million, with the Government of Pakistan contributing $24 million. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration.

Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members-48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totaled $31.7 billion, including $14 billion in cofinancing.