The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is likely to take over the Bandra-Worli sea link, effectively making it toll free seven years after it was constructed, as part of the arrangement for a coastal freeway from South Mumbai to Bandra.
However, while motorists may save toll on the sea link, the proposed coastal road will be a freeway only till Bandra, beyond which users will have to pay a toll up to Versova. The state government is planning to revive the costly Bandra-Versova sea link project, which the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) will build as part of the coastal road and charge a toll on it.
The corporation has floated pre-qualification bids for the Rs 7,500-crore project to be implemented on an engineering procurement contract model, or a cash contract model.
A senior MSRDC official said, “We will construct the Bandra-Versova sea link by raising money from the market and recover the costs by charging a toll. At the same time, the BMC will purchase the Bandra-Worli sea link from the MSRDC so that it becomes toll-free.” The BMC has quoted a figure of Rs 2,800 crore for the civic body to buy the 5.6-km Bandra-Worli sea link and plans to use the money to partially finance the Bandra-Versova sea link.
Currently, the MSRDC has appointed Mumbai Entry Point Limited (MEPL) to collect toll on the Bandra-Worli sea link and maintain the road. The Bandra Worli sea link, constructed at a cost of Rs 1,634 crore including its approaches and traffic dispersal measures, was opened for traffic in 2009 and has always been a toll road. It is, in fact, one of the highest-tolled roads in the country, charging a levy of more than Rs 10 per kilometre for cars.
Senior BMC officials said the plan has been discussed with state government officials though the MSRDC is yet to send a formal proposal. They also seemed skeptical about the feasibility of the plan.
“What is the trade-off for the BMC? What is the point of taking over the maintenance of the Bandra-Worli sea link when we would be simply be shifting the toll to the Bandra-Versova section? However, we will have to comply if the state government directs us to,” a senior bureaucrat with the civic body said. He added that the BMC’s general body of corporators will have to approve the decision before such a large transaction can be made.
He said it may also be unfair, for a certain section of the population living in South Mumbai to have access to the coastal road free of cost, while residents living in the far western suburbs will have to pay a toll to use it. “To make it fair, toll booths will have to also be placed at each of the four interchanges of the coastal road between Princess Street flyover till Carter Road,” the official added.
The MSRDC had originally planned the 9.9-km Bandra-Versova sea link as part of a string of sea links from Nariman Point to Versova. However, with the state government later opting for a coastal road based on reclamation and stilts instead of expensive sea links, the Worli-Haji Ali and Haji Ali-Nariman Point sea links, southwards extensions of the Bandra-Worli sea link, were dropped. Similarly, the fate of the Bandra-Versova sea link hung in balance until recently when the MSRDC and BMC started discussing about implementing it as part of the coastal road.
The BMC has already invited expression of interest from contractors to construct the coastal road from near Princess Street on Marine Drive to Worli to meet the Bandra-Worli sea link.
Coastal road plan
3.4-km underground tunnel from Princess Street to Priyadarshni Park. Implementing agency: BMC.
3.8-km bridge from Priyadarshni Park to Baroda Palace, Worli. Implementing agency: BMC.
2.7-km road from Baroda Palace to Worli end of Bandra-Worli sea link. Implementing agency: BMC.
5.6-km Bandra-Worli sea link. Already constructed and operational since 2009. Likely to be made toll free.
9.9-km Bandra-Versova sea link. Implementing agency: MSRDC