Radheshyam Mopalwar, Director General (War Room, Infrastructure Projects) and Managing Director of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), talks about the challenges of constructing the Hindu Hrudaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg that will connect Mumbai to Nagpur, the upcoming infrastructure projects that promise to transform Maharashtra and his initiative to improve travelling conditions on roads leading up to Mumbai.
When will the Mumbai-Nagpur expressway be inaugurated?
The first phase of the project, which stretches on an area of 480 km from Shirdi to Nagpur, is complete. The honourable chief minister has declared that we intend to inaugurate it on August 15. We are waiting for a formal communication in the regard. The honourable PM will inaugurate it; we can inaugurate the project even today. In fact, we have been ready since June 5. All the requisite infrastructure is in place.
We have deployed ambulance services on the stretch; toll collection systems, petrol pumps, everything is ready. We are planning to complete the entire 700-km stretch by May end next year.
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How much will the toll be from Mumbai to Nagpur?
As per the 2008 notification of the Maharashtra government, there is a formula given according to which a rate of Rs 1.72 per km will be charged. The present toll on NH-3 from Mumbai to Nashik is actually more than the fare for the same route on our highway. While the road is designed for speed of up to 150 kms, the legal speed restriction will be 120-km per hour.
Once the road is complete, how many vehicles do you expect will ply on it on a daily basis?
For the first year, we estimate 25,000 vehicles per day. Once it connects to Bhiwandi, it will rise to more than 1 lakh per day. Mumbai-Pune expressway, when it started, had a daily traffic count of 15,000 vehicles per day. Today, it is 1.25 lakh.
The MSRDC was also authorised to act as the New Town Development Authority to venture into the long-term development of 19 new towns at strategic nodes along the Samruddhi Expressway. What is the status of this part of the project?
Second phase is also very important. At eight places, plans for creating these townships are ready. The work on this will now take off at a fast pace. These townships have already attracted lots of enquiries.
Improved connectivity will create more attraction for investors… and the entire area will get a boost. We are very confident that these places earmarked by us will attract investments. We were waiting for this expressway to be completed. Unless connectivity is there, we can’t inspire confidence in investors.
In India, not many bureaucrats have been part of a project from the day it started to its conclusion. You have been with the Samruddhi Expressway project since the time the foundation stone was laid. What is the secret behind your association with the project for so long?
It is destiny. There could be more competent people than me. I never thought that I was the most competent one to do it. But fortunately, I got this opportunity. Luckily, the political environment in this state is so nice that I always got support from all spectrum.
While the Samruddhi corridor will improve infrastructure, connectivity to Mumbai is a concern. Over the last one month, people have got tired of travelling on the Nashik-Mumbai Highway, particularly the Thane-Kalyan stretch, due to massive traffic jams. Parts of those stretches are with MSRDC. Why is the quality of work done in the Samruddhi corridor not visible in parts of roads that are so close to Mumbai?
It is important that this last-mile connectivity should be completed. That is why we pursued the government of India to hand over the stretch from Shangri La to Kapurbaudi junction on this stretch to us. Last year, it was handed over to us. We started construction last year but there was a forest clearance issue which we got last month. We are hopeful of completing that stretch in 18 months, before the next monsoon. The work was hampered last August after the forest department said there is a forest en route.
So, we went for forest clearance on June 15. The new stretch will be world-class; it will be an eight-lane concrete road and will not have potholes for the next 30 years.
What are the reasons for the delay in the Bandra-Versova sea link project?
It is a fact that the project was delayed because of the JV (joint venture) partners. There were two partners – one of the Italian partners who later merged with a bigger company in Europe and there, the second company was Indian. They didn’t take the project in the same spirit as we would have thought.
There was a delay of one-and-a-half years. Now, the Italian partner has substituted their Indian partner with another. We finalised the entire agreement in February. This project will be completed in the next four years. It was originally planned to be finished by 2025, but it will be finished by 2026. Work has already started.
You are expected to take over as an adviser to the Chief Minister on infrastructure projects. What are the projects that you think are important for the state right now?
One of the most important projects is the Multi Modal corridor that stretches from Virar to Alibaug. The project will be a major game changer for the state. We are also concentrating on the Pune Ring Road project. Besides, we are also working on the missing link project on the Mumbai-Pune expressway. On the 95-km-long Mumbai-Pune expressway, an 18-km stretch is not a part of the expressway. The ghat section is common for expressway as well as old Mumbai-Pune highway. Nearly, 50 per cent of the accidents on the expressway take place in the ghat section. To avoid this, we are constructing the missing link from Khalapur to Sinhagad institute. This has two tunnels and two viaducts. The viaducts are going to be very scenic. These are going to be the widest tunnels in the world with a diameter of 23 metres and have five lanes.
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