India in its past did not allocate enough resources to build or maintain its road network. This has changed since 1995, with major efforts currently underway to modernize the country's road infrastructure. The length of national highways in India has increased from 70,934 km in 2010-11 to 1,01,011 in 2015-16.
As of May 2017, India had completed and placed in use over 28,900 kilometres of recently built 4 or 6-lane highways connecting many of its major manufacturing centres, commercial and cultural centres. According to Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, as of March 2016, India had about 1,01,011 kilometers of national highways and expressways, plus another 1,76,166 kilometers of state highways. Major projects are being implemented under the National Highways Development Project, a government initiative. Private builders and highway operators are also implementing major projects - for example, the Yamuna Expressway between Delhi and Agra was completed ahead of schedule and within budget, while the KMP Expressway started in 2006 is far behind schedule, over budget and incomplete.
According to 2009 estimates by Goldman Sachs, India will need to invest US$1.7 trillion on infrastructure projects before 2020 to meet its economic needs, a part of which would be in upgrading India's road network. The investment in national highways increased from ₹14,095.87 crore (US$2.2 billion) in 2005-06 to ₹98,988.06 crore (US$15 billion) in 2015-16 During the same period the total investment in national highways was ₹476,589.37 crore (US$74 billion). The Government of India is attempting to promote foreign investment in road projects. Foreign participation in Indian road network construction has attracted 45 international contractors and 40 design/engineering consultants, with Malaysia, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States being the largest players.
The first evidence of road development in the Indian subcontinent can be traced back to approximately 2800 BC from the ancient cities of Harrapa and Mohenjodaro of the Indus Valley Civilization. Ruling emperors and monarchs of ancient India had constructed roads to connect the cities. Archaeological excavations give us fresh information about road connectivity in ancient India. The Grand Trunk Road was built by Sher Shah Suri in 1540-45 connecting Sonargaon near Dhaka in Bangladesh with Peshawar in modern-day Pakistan linking several cities from in India.
India inherited a poor road network infrastructure at the time of its independence in 1947. Beyond that, between 1947 and 1988, India witnessed no new major projects, and the roads were poorly maintained. Predominantly all roads were single lane, and most were unpaved. India had no expressways, and less than 200 kilometers of 4-lane highways. In 1988, an autonomous entity called the National Highways Authority of India was established in India by an Act of Parliament, and came into existence on 15 June 1989. The Act empowered this entity to develop, maintain and manage India's road network through National Highways. However, even though the Authority was created in 1988, not much happened till India introduced widespread economic liberalization in the early 1990s. Since 1995, the authority has privatized road network development in India.