In a bid to decongest traffic near Lonavla on the western ghats, the highway police will restrict the movement of heavy vehicles on an 8-km stretch for four hours during weekends.
Starting Friday evening, the highway police will, on a trial basis, prohibit multi-axle vehicles going towards Pune between 6pm to 10pm on Friday and 8am to noon on Saturday. For vehicles going towards Mumbai, the prohibitions will be between 6pm and 10 pm on Sunday and 7am and 10am on Monday.
Surveys conducted about the traffic congestion on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway have showed that routine breakdown on multi-axle vehicles is the biggest reason for all the chaos. “Multi-axle vehicles find it difficult to move up the steep slope around the Amrutanjan bridge near Lonavla on the ghats. Traffic snarls go on for nearly four hours when a heavy vehicle stops moving. The entire fiasco further compounds the problem of rush hour traffic,” said a senior police officer. Elaborating on why it has become a major issue, police said around 700 vehicles cross the ghats during lean traffic hours while the number jumps to 2,000 during peak hours.
“Lonavla and Mahabaleshwar are considered to be the most sought after weekend getaways for people of Mumbai and western Maharashtra. It has been observed that several motorists travel to the hill stations either Friday night or early Saturday morning and return by Sunday or early Monday morning. The infrastructure on the expressway is limited yet the number of vehicles using the route on the weekends is increasing. With this new move that has been started on a temporary basis, we are trying to see if vehicular movement improves or not,” said Balasaheb Patil, superintendent of police, Highway traffic (Mumbai). Besides the multi-axle vehicles, officers said, ‘over dimensional’ vehicle that ply on the stretch, have worsened the situation.
“The over dimensional vehicles that are more than 18 metres long, and carry machinery for industries, cause a lot of problem. Recently, it took nearly two days for one such vehicle that broke down on the ghats to be moved. Even four cranes could not do the job and traffic was severely affected,” a senior police officer added.
The police plan appears to be to hold off the multiaxle vehicles that are on down line at Khalapur toll and a nearby food plaza. Together, they take up the space which could hold about 200 heavy vehicles.
Similarly, on the up line, Urse and Kusgaon toll nakas along with a petrol pump are the three major points where heavy vehicles will be temporarily halted.Teams of four officers, headed by a sub inspector rank officer, have been formed for each stop.
Several motorists said they are skeptical of the move but plan to “wait and watch” how it helps.
“This experiment is on trial basis and has not been made permanent yet. We’ll have to wait and watch how business is affected. We still don’t know if hours will be saved or wasted for drivers. Matters will be collectively assessed after the weekend on Monday,” said Gill Singh, president of Bombay Goods Transport Association.
The official notification about the move is expected soon after the first weekend of the new experiment, police said.