It is 11 pm and workers are gearing up to resurface Marine Drive. However, the road is still abuzz with traffic, with vehicles crowded around popular eateries and other outlets.
The road contractor has permission from traffic police to carry out the work between 11 pm and 6 am. Though barricades have been put up on a stretch opposite Girgaum Chowpatty, there is too much movement to start work yet.
Pointing towards a famous juice centre, Swapnil Achrekar, the project manager with contractor RPS Infraprojects, says, “More than 50 motorbikes and a few cars are parked here despite putting up the barricades. This road is a happening hangout. Now, these people will take at least half-an-hour to go. Till then, we won’t be able to carry out the work despite having permission.”
Achrekar, a civil engineer, says the work will start in an hour. Around 25 technical staff, including engineers and supervisors, and around 25 mechanical staff such as operators and drivers, will then work through the night.
“Our work normally gets over around 5 am, but some days we go on till 6 am. If we have carried out mastic asphalt work, we need four hours for it to cool. The temperature of the asphalt is around 200 degrees Celsius, it can melt body parts. So, if we finish our work by 5 am, the cooling will be completed by 9 am and the road can then open for traffic.”
Gradually, the mechanical staff brings in the vehicles and machines to start work. “We always need to take care of traffic movement while carrying out the work. Sometimes, bikers push aside barricades and speed away,” says Achrekar, who has been working on roads across the city for the past 13 years.
Achrekar says VVIP movement is the biggest hurdle they face while resurfacing roads. “We only get to work for six months in a year. Apart from four months during the monsoon, assembly sessions, IPL and other VIP events such as Make in India stall our work. This Marine Drive work will be completed by the end of April,” says Achrekar, who is a native of Malvan in Sindhudurg.
While the work began in 2014, it has missed deadlines twice. As per the plan, 70 per cent of the stretch from Girgaum Chowpatty to Madame Cama Road is to be resurfaced using mechanised mastic asphalt and the rest of the road will be concretised. This will increase the life span of the road by five to seven years.
Talking about the potholed city roads, Achrekar says digging trenches is to be blamed for it. “If we prepare a 200-mt patch of road, it can last for three to five years. But, if it is trenched, it will crack and soon develop potholes.”