By: Neha Kulkarni & Krysta Pancras
As a 21-km arterial road connecting central Mumbai to the eastern suburbs, with over four lakh vehicles plying along it daily, one might expect that the Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg, LBS Marg to all those who use it, would be one of the city’s better maintained roads.
But even letters from the Mumbai Police traffic department to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) have done little to improve traffic movement on this important north-south road. Long hours in interminable traffic jams, pockets that get inundated every monsoon, traffic policemen apparently at their wits’ end trying to control the congestion, illegal parking and illegal double parking along long stretches and repeated rounds of trenching by utility service providers — that sums up the picture of this critical road.
Starting at Sion Railway Station and snaking its way all the way to Mulund Check Naka and beyond, LBS Marg also called the ‘Old Agra Road’, has commuters in for a bumpy ride from the very start.
The traffic police, already hard pressed by some absent or non-functional traffic signals, say they cannot risk looking away for even a few minutes — that’s all it takes for traffic flow to be completely disrupted.
The traffic police have also written to the BMC about completing road works as soon as possible along the stretch, citing a water pipeline rupture incident on April 11 which stalled traffic for over a week, causing massive traffic jams. “We have been communicating with the BMC about the traffic problems along LBS Marg,” said Quaisar Khalid, additional commissioner of police (traffic).
Double-parked trucks, buses right where the road begins
Right along the wall adjoining the railway tracks at Sion station, the southern tip of LBS Marg is a home to rows of double-parked vehicles, including garbage trucks, long distance tourist buses and cars.
The double-parking is a problem that continues further along the road too, including rows of taxis outside the airport boundary in Kurla.
Jitendra Gupta, an activist who has regularly complained about the illegal parking problem, said, “The recent road marking confirms that 2 lanes are purposely left unusable for traffic movement. Illegal double parking by heavy trucks and private contractors is rampant here.”
Open drains, potholes, uneven roads at the busiest junction
At the Kurla-Kalina junction, potholes and open gutters slow down traffic, with the arm in the direction of Kalina causing more chaos. While the drains have been opened or dug up, no work appears underway to reinstate the road.
Vijay Pujari , owner of a paan shop located right near the junction said, “It’s been this way for six years, the gutter outside my shop has been left open for that long. The smell is disturbing for me and my customers. Every few months, workers clean out the gutter but so far it hasn’t been closed.”
This is one of the road’s busiest junctions, with one arm proceeding towards Kalina and the Western Express Highway from there and the other leading to Kurla railway station, the Santacruz-Chembur Link Road flyover across the Kurla railway tracks further on to Eastern Express Highway. Incredibly, at such a busy junction, trenching work along the divider has left a mound of mud right in the middle of the road, not cleared for at least a week.
For Sachin Jadav a vegetable seller at Sonapur Junction, near Kurla, peak hour is the time he dreads. “I have been working here for almost 15 years and the road has almost always been either under construction or damaged. There is a large pothole right opposite my vegetable stall and often during peak hours, vehicles get their wheel stuck in it and we have to help them out. The state of the road is a big problem,” he added.
From motorists to those waiting at the dusty bus-stops to autorickshaw drivers, nobody is spared. “I end up losing money when I travel on this road because very often, passengers get off mid-way and I am left stranded in traffic,” said Hameed Ansari, a rickshaw driver.
Commuters who can avoid this stretch do so religiously, or leave early to avoid the rush. “Unless I leave my house early in the morning, I always find it easier to walk. Often the traffic here is so bad that my children get delayed when traveling to and from school,” said Jyoti Patel, a resident of Ghatkhopar.
A drainage project that simply won’t get done
One of the road digging projects is a box drainage system being laid from the Siekova Compund at Damodar Park till Gaondevi. The year-long project which commenced last October takes up a huge portion of the road towards Vikhroli, causing a major traffic bottleneck. A resident, who did not wish to be quoted said, “It was just last month that my husband sustained a fracture on his leg when he fell down from the bike while taking a turn at this junction. LBS Marg is a huge mess and we pedestrians have to suffer,” she said.
For Anand Biranje, a watchman at the Wadhwa Group residential buildings at Ghatkopar and a witness to the repeated trenching of this stretch of LBS Marg, the slow-moving traffic sometimes works to his favour. “Sometimes traffic is so bad that I can board a bus right in front of the gate without having to walk till the bus stop,” he grins.
Construction of a stormwater drainage line right in front of the Wadhwa building, starting from Amrut Nagar has been continuing for weeks. Worse, no work has been done over the past three days.
A traffic police officer at this spot said it becomes difficult to organise traffic even if one vehicle breaks down. “Owing to the road digging for utility services and repair work the travel time along LBS Marg had suffered tremendously,” he said.
One more such road digging work is for a sewer line at the Shantaram Chavan Road near Kisan Nagar at Mulund Check Naka. “The work has been going on for 10 days now and the problem worsens when there are many vehicles,” said one resident.
Raju Ghuge, Ghatkopar West Taluka President of the Nationalist Congress Party, complains that the construction projects undertaken on the road are a yearlong hassle. “Parking and traffic form the essential problems of this road,” he said.
What is LBS Marg?
1. LBS Road is named after Lal Bahadur Shastri, the former Prime Minister of India.
2. It begins at Sion station and goes up till Meenatai Thakrey Chowk, Thane.
3. It takes approximately one-and-a-half hours to reach Thane from Sion via LBS Marg.
4. Through the suburban rail line, the same journey gets covered in around 40 minutes.
5. Major industries including HCC, Accenture, TCS, Johnson & Johnson, Bombay Textile Mills Association and Colgate-Palmolive have offices along LBS Marg.
6. With over 5 traffic police Chowkies on the road, the entire stretch is manned by more than 150 traffic police personnel.
1) 500-metre stretch just after Phoenix Market City in Kurla, towards Ghatkopar.
Reason: Trenching work has been going on for last two months
Contractor at the site, who did not wish to be named, claims that work is done. But a section of road is still cordoned off and large parts are still dug up.
2) From Sarvodaya hospital to Shreyas Signal at Ghatkopar West
Reason: Renewing the footpath for pedestrians. Congestion caused due to tiles lying everywhere.
“I think it is happening for our betterment. You have to tolerate a little if you need improvement,” said Harish Jetwa, a shopkeeper
3) Suryanagar, Kanjurmarg
Reason: Cleaning of the divider where plants are kept. Blocked one metre of the road from the centre.
“We are trying to do it fast. The work till Suryanagar Junction is over,” said a labourer.
4) Near Nityanand Nagar, just after Shreyas junction at Ghatkopar.
Reason: Immense parking problems and hawkers on the footpath.
“The traffic here is terrible during the morning hours. Unregulated parking is the main cause,” says Jitesh, a resident of Ghatkopar.