THE Eastern Freeway — which cuts travel distance between the suburbs and south Mumbai by half — could soon see heavy vehicles, with the port authorities moving proposal for containers, long trucks and other multi-axle vehicles to use the freeway.
The freeway is off limits for heavy vehicles, since its inauguration three years ago. The Mumbai police traffic department that denied permission so far to Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) and their request to allow “port bound” vehicles on the freeway, is considering partial access for them.
Senior traffic officials said that a “conditional” admission will be given soon but no final decision has been made yet. Last year, the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) had given a no objection certificate to MbPT regarding their request, since they constructed the Freeway, including a 9.3 km elevated road.
Joint Commissioner of Traffic Police, Milind Bharambe, said a suitable timing was being considered which would not affect vehicular traffic as their objective is to allow free movement on the freeway.
“A possible timing of between 11pm and 5am is being considered. However, there will be several other reasons that will need to be finalized including how would authorities tow a vehicle off the bridge in case a heavy vehicle does break down, or whether the left side of the bridge will only be reserved for heavy vehicles. We need to ensure that traffic is not affected,” Bharambe said.
A senior traffic official said one of the other main causes of objection is safety of the speeding private vehicles which will be driving along with heavy vehicles on the three lane roads.
The fact that there is hardly any place on the freeway’s elevated patch to tow, fix or make a vehicle take a U-turn, the official added.
“For private vehicles, there are several break points in the divider allowing a car to take a U-turn or to be towed to the opposite stretch but in the case of a heavy multi-axle vehicle, traffic could be paralyzed on the carriageway for a couple of hours depending on where the vehicle will be stuck on the elevated stretch,” a senior traffic official said.
MbPT chairman Ravi Parmar claims that at the time the freeway was made it was to ensure that port bound vehicles use the all freeway lanes.
“We were to be allowed on the freeway without any hindrances that’s why even ramps have been on certain sections on the freeway to accommodate containers and long vehicles. We will not add to the traffic on the freeway, it was designed from the beginning to incorporate us,” claimed Parmar.
Parmar that traffic police should gradually allow movement of vehicles on the freeway before the much awaited Offshore Container Terminal (OCT) opens by 2018.
“If they don’t test the route now, will it not be problematic later as they would not know how to tackle the congestion. We ideally want no restriction in timing of our vehicles moving on the freeway but we will see how it pans out as it is the lookout of the traffic police. Even the state government has given us permission. Why should we travel below the freeway?” said Parmar.
According to MbPT officials, about 2,000 containers use the route below the freeway every month and the car carriers, transporting about nine vehicles each, are one of the more frequent of them.
The number of long vehicles are expected to tremendously rise once the OCT is opened.
Currently on the freeway, heavy vehicles (except public buses), three-wheelers, two-wheelers, bullock carts and hand carts and pedestrians are prohibited.
Vehicles are prohibited from halting on the freeway and the maximum allowed speed limit is 60 km/h.