For the last seven months, IFFCO Chowk, one of Gurgaon’s busiest junctions, has been a mess of concrete, dust and barricades, which has thrown traffic out of gear, led to congestion and snarls, and left pedestrians with a confusing path to manoeuvre to reach the intersection.
The root of this chaos lies in the traffic improvement work underway in the area, as part of a larger project to improve three major junctions in the city — the other two being Rajiv Chowk and the Signature Tower intersections, which lie beyond IFFCO Chowk on National Highway 8.
The Haryana government and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) together made a decision to undertake a three-tier traffic improvement plan last year, months after heavy rain led to waterlogging and gridlocks in the city, leaving commuters stranded on the roads for several hours.
The project is expected to cost Rs 1,004.67 crore, with the financial burden being shared by the state government, which will bear 25 per cent of the cost, and the NHAI, which will pay for the rest.
Elaborate plans have been made for the work to be undertaken at each of the three junctions — to make them safe and more accessible to motorised and non-motorised transport, as well as pedestrians.
Of the three, however, IFFCO Chowk is the intersection where the transformation is expected to be most noticeable once the work is finished, with flyovers, underpasses, pedestrian subways, and foot overbridges that could give people hope that the days of traffic snarls at the junction are behind them.
The changes at IFFCO Chowk will begin from the main highway itself, where two loops will be constructed on both sides of the junction to facilitate elevated U-turns for vehicles.
While one four-lane unidirectional flyover will be built to allow traffic coming from HUDA City Centre and Mehrauli to take a U-turn and travel towards Delhi and Sukhrali, another four-lane unidirectional flyover will be constructed to allow people coming from Sector 17 and Sukhrali to take a U-turn and travel towards Mehrauli and Jaipur.
In addition, a third, four-lane unidirectional flyover will be constructed in the service lane for commuters going from Delhi towards Jaipur, to allow them a signal-free pass across the busy Mehrauli-Gurgaon road.
The solitary underpass at the junction, meanwhile, will be dug up across MG Road, to provide a path for vehicles coming from the HUDA City Centre side and looking to take a right turn towards Mehrauli.
Apart from motorised transport, plans have also been made keeping in mind the need for a “safe and stress-free commute” for those with non-motorised vehicles, like cycles and carts, as well as pedestrians who find themselves at risk each time they go through the junction.
“Tracks for non-motorised transport will be constructed all along the service road of the highway,” said an official from Bloom Companies LLC, the authority’s engineer, on condition of anonymity. “Three structures are also being constructed to make the lives of pedestrians easier, namely one pedestrian subway and two foot overbridges, with staircases and escalators,” he said.
While the pedestrian subway will cut across MG Road and NH-8, the two foot overbridges will be made across MG road — one towards Sukhrali and the other in front of The Westin hotel.
Although the entire project — traffic improvement work at all three junctions — was originally meant to be completed in 30 months, officials expect they will be able to finish the job done in 16 months. “Fifty-five per cent of the project has already been completed, and we expect we will finish all the work before the stipulated period of 30 months,” said Ashok Sharma, Project Director, NHAI.
He added, “Although the deadline given to us was May 30, 2019, we expect the work will be completed by March 31, 2018 — over a year earlier than planned.”
The pace at which construction is done, and the ability of officials to complete the job, however, depends on the amount of time it takes to clear certain structures currently impeding the work, four of which — two petrol pumps, a crematorium, and a 220KV high transmission line — are located at IFFCO Chowk.
According to officials, the petrol pump on MG Road, next to ABW Tower, is having the most immediate impact on construction work.
“The petrol pump falls in the middle of the path of the right-turning underpass being constructed to take commuters coming from the HUDA City Centre side towards Mehrauli. It is holding up construction. Work on the underpass has stopped completely and cannot resume until the pump is removed,” said the official from Bloom Companies LLC.
The petrol pump has to be removed by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA). “We have already applied to the Chief Administrative Officer for permission to remove the petrol pump. We expect the approval any day now,” said HUDA administrator Yashpal Yadav.
Officials said the 220 KV high-transmission line along the highway — on the side of vehicles travelling from Delhi towards Jaipur — is not affecting improvement work immediately but could prove to be the biggest impediment in the future and hold up work on the flyovers being built on NH-8.
Clearing it will involve the removal of 12 electricity towers, and shifting of the electricity line underground. NHAI officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that before the authority undertakes the work, permission will have to be granted by the Haryana Vidyut Prasaran Nigam Limited (HVPNL). “Even after permission is received, it can take us between three and four months to complete the work,” said the NHAI official.
Officials from the HVPNL maintained that the approval formalities are almost complete. “The case has been sent to the headquarters and only the approval of the final authority is pending. We expect this to come in early next week, after which the process for moving the cables underground can commence,” said Anil Yadav, Superintending Engineer, HVPNL.
The two other structures that lie in the path of the improvement work are in the process of being removed, said officials.
“Another petrol pump on the highway, near Sukhrali, was obstructing the construction of the U-turns. We have already provided an alternate site for it in Sector 31 and have completed the formalities for the same. Only its shifting remains,” said HUDA administrator Yashpal Yadav.
A crematorium, believed to be hundreds of years old, is being relocated to an alternate site in Sector 17, near Atul Kataria Chowk, with the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) having started the process of relocation. “The construction work at the new site is already underway, and we expect it will be completed in another 10-15 days,” said an MCG official, who did not wish to be named.
Although none of the structures being constructed at IFFCO Chowk are likely to be completed in the coming months, two structures at the other junctions are set to be inaugurated today, a day ahead of Independence Day.
Confirming this, an official from Bloom Companies LLC said, “We have completed load testing on the four-lane bidirectional Maharana Pratap Chowk flyover being made at Signature Tower to facilitate an easy pass through traffic in either direction. This will be inaugurated on August 14, along with the two-lane right-turning underpass at Rajiv Chowk, meant to allow smooth travel from the direction of Medanta-The Medicity towards Delhi.”
According to officials, both structures will be inaugurated by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari. At IFFCO Chowk, meanwhile, as the files for approvals to remove obstructions circulate in various departments, construction continues in full swing, with each day bringing the city closer to seamless travel.