low cost road

Low Cost Road (Cheap Road) | 4 Types, Advantages & Disadvantages of Low Cost Road


The road that is constructed and maintained at a low cost by utilizing the locally available materials & labor is a low cost road.

It is also referred to as a cheap road.

In the villages and underdeveloped areas; the immediate need for roads can be fulfilled at low cost by these roads and can be improved further if required in the future. 

This is the best choice for underdeveloped areas where the investment fund is smaller.

low cost road/ earthen road / earth road

  1.1. Types of Low-Cost Road  

There are four types of low-cost roads:

1) Earth Road

2) Kankar Road

3) WBM Road

4) Gravel Road


1) Earth Road 

The road that is totally constructed from the soil available at the site (or road alignment) is earth road

The earth used in this road may be either natural earth or stabilized earth. 

How many types of earth roads are there?

There are 2 types of earth road naming Ordinary Earth Road & Stabilized Earth Road.

If natural earth is used in the construction of earth road then it is an ordinary earth road.

If stabilized earth is used in the construction of earth road then it is stabilized earth road.

Read: Earth Road; Types, Advantages & Disadvantages of  Earth Road


2) Kankar Road 

Kankar is a form of impure limestone.

This road is constructed utilizing kankar (or chips of impure limestone).

It is only constructed when limestones are available in sufficient quantity.


3) WBM Road 

WBM road is the pavement whose surface course is made up of crushed or broken aggregates that are mechanically interlocked by rolling and voids are filled using filler materials with the assistance of water.

What does WBM stands for?

WBM stands for Water Bound Macadam.

Read Also: Water Bound Macadam Road


4) Gravel Road 

It is a type of unpaved road that is surfaced with gravel that has been brought to the site from a quarry or stream bed.

This road is common in less developed nations, and also in rural areas of developed nations.


  1.2. Construction of Low Cost Road  

The construction of low-cost roads includes the following steps:

construction of low cost road

a. Alignment Selection

The alignment shows the path through which the road will pass. So, the selection of road alignment should be done such that it has less conflict, high soil strength & shorter length.

Road alignment is the key factor that directly influences the construction speed and economy.


b. Cutting & Filling of Earth

Cutting and filling work is carried out to provide proper shape to the road.

During this process, if the side slope is unstabilized then retaining walls of wooden logs (or bamboos) are provided. In the absence of wooden logs; locally available stones are used.


c. Preparation of Sub-grade

Sub-grade preparation involves the process of compaction of the soil to increase strength, stability and bearing capacity.

Compaction of sub-grade should be done with the assistance of water.

Road strength is determined by sub-grade. So, the subgrade should be compacted multiple times (according to the type of soil).


d. Preparation of Pavement 

Above the subgrade, a layer of material is provided which acts as both base and surface course.

Road TypePavement Material 
Earthen RoadEarth
Kankar RoadKankar
WBM RoadCrushed Aggregate
Gravel RoadGravel

The pavement layer is also compacted as similar to sub-grade with the assistance of water.


f. Drying

The road is allowed to dry naturally for 1 to 3 days and then opened to traffic.

Note: If the soil(subgrade)  strength is high; the base thickness may be reduced to reduce the cost of construction.


  1.3. Considerations in Low Cost Road  

1) The road shall be constructed on a balanced approach following the mass curve.

2) The road shall be constructed in stages.

3) Local materials shall be used.

4) Local manpower should be utilized.

5) Planning shall be done in a decentralized manner.

6) Bio-engineering shall be practiced for slope stability  (instead of costlier structure).

7) Cross slope of the road shall be towards the outside. so, as to avoid the side-drain.

8) In the case of natural water resources; a causeway shall be preferred instead of bridges, culverts, or other costlier construction.

9) The garbage wall and wooden log wall shall be preferred instead of the retaining wall.

Read Also: Camber in Road


  1.4. Advantages  

Some of the advantages of the low-cost road are:

1) No large investment of capital is required initially.

2) Local people and materials are utilized.

3) As bio-engineering is preferred for slope protection. It is more environment-friendly.

4) Stage construction technique helps to manage the dispute that arises at the construction site.

5) The cost of side drain construction can be saved.

6) It helps to mobilize rural materials.

7) It can be upgraded to the blacktopped road economically.


  1.5. Disadvantages of Low Cost Road  

Some disadvantages of the low-cost road are:
a. Not suitable for heavy traffic.
b. The requirement of maintenance after heavy rainfall.
c. Low comfort & high vehicle operation cost.
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