TBY talks to Çağatay Kalkancı, General Manager of İsfalt, on road building and asphalt production in Istanbul and beyond.
TBY What makes İsfalt unique as a state-run company?
ÇAĞATAY KALKANCI Our company is owned by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Our sole aim isn’t profit. Sure, we want to be profitable, but the most important thing is to spend our money effectively, and increase the service we supply to the municipality. In short, instead of paving 1 million tons of asphalt per year, our aim is to pave 1.2 million tons of asphalt with the same budget.
How would you compare your level of activity in 2011 to previous years?
It depends on the budget allocated by the municipality, but this year we expect production to increase by 20%. We don’t just sell to the metropolitan municipality but to other municipalities as well. As the Turkish economy grows, asphalt demand also grows. If we compare Turkey to European countries, Germany produces 50 million tons of asphalt per year, Italy and the UK around 40 million tons, whereas Turkey produces 20 million tons, and that’s increasing day by day. The quality of our asphalt is also getting better day by day.
What are some of the challenges of paving in Istanbul?
Istanbul has bigger needs and special circumstances compared to other cities in Turkey. It really is in a class of its own. There’s a lot of traffic congestion here and very heavy demands on infrastructure. For example, we can’t work during the day; it has to be late at night or very early in the morning. The city continues to grow very rapidly. A third bridge will be built across the Bosphorus, new roads are needed, old roads need to be repaved, and so on. When you consider the number of vehicles in a city like this, not to mention the rate at which it’s growing, you realize maintenance work has to be frequent and fast. You have to keep up with these needs, adapt to these circumstances, and also be innovative and creative in your products, services, management, and execution. Right now I would say we are number one in terms of quality, services, and also laboratory activities. We keep track of new innovations around the world and incorporate them immediately into our activities. We are members of the American Asphalt Institute and the European Pavement Association, and are in touch with everything that’s happening in the field.
What have been your biggest projects in recent years?
The borders of Istanbul’s metropolitan municipality were enlarged in 2005, and we grew in line with that, doubling both our production and turnover since 2005. We’ve paved 5,000 kilometers of roads in Istanbul. We’re responsible for everything from surrounding villages to Istiklal Avenue.
What are the most significant projects on the horizon?
The biggest one right now is the paving of Istiklal Avenue with a new elastic kind of asphalt, which is both very flexible and also aesthetic. The tramline that runs down Istiklal will also benefit greatly as the elasticity will reduce stress caused both on the tram and the street. This type of asphalt is called mosaic asphalt, but we hope to rename it “Istiklal” asphalt. Another kind of asphalt we use is warm asphalt, which is more environmentally friendly as it gives off far less emissions in the
What’s your vision for the future of İsfalt?
We expect to be privatized within about the next 10 years. Istanbul Sea Buses (İDO), for example, was privatized in 2011. We too are scheduled for privatization in five years. This would be a good move. We should be able to work not just in Istanbul but also on other projects throughout Turkey, like with the Turkish highway authority, and also on projects outside of Turkey. As we expand to those areas our company will grow concomitantly.
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