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EVEN as traffic snarls keep Mumbai’s motorists fretting and delayed, traffic policemen posted across the suburbs concede that with more work on infrastructure projects set to be kicked off later this year, more stretches could suffer long pile-ups in coming months.
The city’s most prominent business district and the address of some of the country’s biggest companies is plagued by constant traffic snarls. The broad and straight 3.5-km BKC Road is at least a 30-minute drive during peak hours – the road’s western end at Kalanagar congested due to traffic from the gridlocked Western Express Highway, its eastern end a long-standing bottleneck at Kurla and its parallel CST road barricaded for a flyover and also separately for a bridge-widening project. And things will get worse with the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) set to start work on a Metro corridor through the entire BKC Road starting from the Kalanagar junction up to MTNL junction. Barricades for Metro 2B are set to be erected any time now. In addition, construction will start at Kalanagar for the BKC-Bandra Worli Sea Link connector.
Kushal Sarda, an employee at BKC One, has tried to change his work timings to avoid the pile-ups. “Earlier I worked from 10 am to 6 pm, but now I start my day by 8 and try to leave by 4.45 pm. The change in work schedule has affected my work-life balance. I am not able to devote time to my family or self,” he said. If he leaves BKC after 5 pm, he takes two hours to reach Kandivali via the highway. “Now work will begin for another Metro. I do not think we are ready for that traffic-wise,” added Sarda.
By the time the monsoon starts, the arterial Swami Vivekanand Road, a north-south connector for the western suburbs that’s an alternative to the WEH, will be barricaded for construction of the Metro 2B corridor connecting DN Nagar and Mankhurd. Two lanes of the four-lane road will be blocked, on the median, starting from VM Road junction to Mahim causeway.
“The Western Express Highway and the Link Road are wider roads and yet they are not able to handle traffic due to the Metro construction. We cannot expect SV Road to be able to cope,” said Nitin Killawala, a Juhu resident and architect who says he has seen traffic on SV Road grow by three times in the last five years.
“I have to often travel on SV Road from Vile Parle to Bandra for work and owing to the unbearable traffic I shifted to the suburban trains six months back. Once the Metro work begins, more people will shift to trains, increasing congestion on the Western Railway,” he added.
The alternative routes such as Juhu Tara Road, Link Road and WEH are all equally congested. “When they barricade SV Road, they must open up Link Road or it will lead to complete chaos,” said Zoru Bhathena, a Khar resident and a tree activist who travels from Khar to Kandivali for work. He too has switched to the railways.
JSS Road In Girgaum
On the night of April 27, around 40 people gathered on JSS Road in Girgaum to demand the removal of barricades put up for soil testing of the Metro 3 route, the Colaba-Bandra-SEEPZ line. The testing had been completed and the machines removed, but the contractor had not cleared the barricades that blocked almost half the road space. Led by ‘Aamhi Girgaonkar’, a local citizens’ group, the protesters ensured that the contractors cleared the path within two hours.
But once the Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation (MMRC) begins construction of the underground Kalbadevi station on the southern end of JSS Road, there will be bottlenecks on either side of the road. Manoeuvring through the traffic every morning, Vaibhav Kelkar struggles to take his five-year-old to school on his bike. “He has to reach school by 8.15 am, a minute later and they send the child back home. We have had a few incidents these last few months when we reached school late in spite of starting at the usual time,” said Kelkar.
With six schools in the vicinity and school buses of at least 12 schools visiting the road to pick up children, the 7 am-9 am and 12 noon-3 pm slots are the worst times of the day to travel along this road.
“I believe, we will have to leave Mumbai for the next 4-5 years, at least till the Metro construction is completed,” said Aditya Mujjumdar, a Mulund resident. He added, “In a year’s time, the whole city will be dug up. I stay in Mulund and have been commuting to Ghatkopar using LBS Marg on a regular basis. It’s quite congested during the peak hours, and I cannot imagine how chaotic it will be after digging for the Metro work starts.”
Construction on the 12.4-km Metro from Ghatkopar bus depot to Teen Haath Naka in Thane is set to begin by the end of May. “Where will they construct the Metro?” questioned autorickshaw driver Luvkumar Verma. “After 6 pm, we avoid ferrying people to Ghatkopar station from R City mall. Because during the peak hours, it takes more than one and a half hours to reach.”
The other, long-standing problem on LBS Marg is illegal parking along long stretches from Sion to Kurla where even trucks are double-parked and near Ghatkopar and Vikhroli.
Further, the roads connecting Eastern Express Highway and LBS Marg have several bottlenecks, adding to the traffic chaos. “The Ghatkopar-Andheri Link road extension, the JVLR and the Mulund-Goregaon link road, the major roads connecting EEH to the LBS Marg, themselves suffer from high traffic. These roads need to be widened, before they start digging on LBS Marg,” said businessman Prashant Bhanushali.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation will start digging for Line 6 of the Metro Rail, connecting Lokhandwala and Vikhroli, by the year-end. But residents of the 14-km Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road (JVLR) believe that the road would have to be widened before any construction starts.
Real estate agent Harshil Chordia, a resident of RNA Heights near Jogeshwari, said, “There is nothing called peak hour for us. It is congested throughout the day. As soon as we step out of our building premises, there is traffic. It takes us an hour to reach Western Express Highway. The road needs to be widened before they start constructing the Metro.”
Tomorrow: Traffic police chief on the challenges and new measures in traffic management