It has been more than a year since the Eastern Freeway, touted as an ‘engineering marvel’, was opened for public use. It has considerably reduced the travel time between Chembur and south Mumbai and has also eased congestion considerably on the arterial Ambedkar Road as promised.
While earlier, the peak-hour traffic on that road would not clear before 9-9.30 pm, with a large section of motorists having shifted to the freeway, the peak-hour clog on this road is mostly cleared by 7.30-8 pm. However, while cars breeze past the 14-km freeway in 10-15 minutes, there is a heavy build-up at both ends that stretches the entire journey from P D’Mello Road to the Panjarpol Circle in Chembur to around 30 minutes during peak hours.
To get a first-hand experience of the problems along the freeway, a Mumbai Newsline team travelled from Carnac Bunder junction to Panjarpol junction and back during the evening peak hours on a weekday with traffic personnel who monitor the stretch on a daily basis. The drive brought to light several impediments along the way that cause congestion at the two ends of the freeway.
Peak hours on P D’Mello Road
Managing peak-hour traffic on the south-bound side in the morning is more of a hassle for traffic cops stationed on P D’Mello Road than in the evening peak hours on the north-bound side. On the north-bound side, there are four lanes clearly available for traffic. However, on the south-bound side, vehicles end up getting barely three lanes due to several obstacles, forcing the traffic personnel to operate two more lanes on the wrong side of the road.
On the south-bound side, the traffic that is moving at a speed of about 100 kmph is pulled down to below 40 kmph post Wadi Bunder after the freeway descends. Traffic from two lanes of the freeway and three lanes of the road below meets at this spot and is squeezed into just about three lanes.
While there are many obstacles along the way, the major reason that causes a build-up right till the exit ramp of the Eastern Freeway is the Carnac Bunder junction where only about two lanes are available due to a signal that the civic body had installed last year.
A traffic official, who did not wish to be named, “This is a major bottleneck. We had written to the BMC one day after the signal was installed that they should shift it 15-ft west and cut the island of another adjacent signal so that motorists will have 3.5 lanes on the south-bound side here. However, nothing has been done about it.”
As soon as the freeway ends, there is a petrol pump at the curb that creates a hiccup in the smooth flow. At the interval of every few metres, there are three more petrol pumps in that line that play their part in holding up traffic with some vehicles wanting to access them. Also, auto-rickshaws and taxis queue up for a gas refill. Relocating these petrol pumps will go a long way in easing the traffic flow on the P D’Mello Road.
Also, along this road there are weight check counters where heavy vehicles headed for the port line-up. The traffic department had approached Mumbai Port Trust requesting it to make a road from Wadala that leads inside the port’s premises functional and divert all heavy vehicles traffic towards the port through that road.
Earlier, heavy vehicles and buses parking on the P D’Mello Road used to further cripple the traffic flow. However, off late, the traffic department has been successful in implementing zero parking during peak hours.
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