Ananya Ahuja, 37, drives everyday from his home in Majiwada in Thane to Vikhroli, where he works, a distance of about 17 km. “I have been driving on this road for the past three years. And I have never seen such traffic snarls so regularly,” he says. “On good days, I would be in office 45 minutes after leaving home. Now, it takes me 45 minutes just to get out of Thane.”
While the state government on Monday announced a temporary suspension of toll collection at the Thane and Airoli toll collection points to ease traffic woes, motorists continued to suffer long traffic pile-ups on Eastern Express Highway on Tuesday.
While the toll collection point itself was smooth by Tuesday evening, the bottleneck at Kopri bridge, where traffic narrows to two lanes, continued unabated. Motorists said they had to wait over half and hour to get past the bottleneck and the empty toll plaza, Tuesday morning.
According to the Thane police, the reason for the serious traffic woes at this point, beginning about a month back, are manifold. “The closure of the Mumbra bypass due to repairs has critically affected Thane city traffic. Heavy vehicles have been using roads meant otherwise for daily commuters,” said a traffic police officer. “The bottleneck at Kopri is a serious problem, it is too narrow and with the increased heavy vehicles, traffic movement is very slow. We make diversions wherever possible, but it’s not enough to ensure smooth traffic in the peak hours,” he added.
Amit Kale, DCP (Traffic), Thane Police, said, “With the toll waiver we see an increase in traffic snarls. Earlier there were, say, five cars coming in a minute after paying the toll. Now, there are 20 cars coming, as no one is stopping. But the roads are meant to take only a certain number of cars, which is leading to jams.”
“With big potholes and bad road conditions, the issue is aggravated. Vehicles come at a certain speed and then have to decelerate,” he said. The road surface of the Kopri bridge itself, the subsequent patch of road and the flyover immediately north of the Kopri bridge are in extremely poor condition, with deep and wide potholes where repair material hurriedly smoothened over has also washed off in the rains.
“I can’t speak about the percentage or exact number as of now. But the traffic has increased as people who would think twice earlier are now excited to go through without paying toll,” he said. Meanwhile, Thane traffic police is focusing a chunk of their manpower to the area to ensure smooth traffic. “We have put all our men out. The traffic through the day is affected, but unless the road infrastructure is upgraded to match the traffic-flow, we can only do so much,” Kale said.