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Sea link plan sinks,paves the way for ‘Western Freeway’

Three tunnels,including one running under the length of the Juhu beach,as well as a slew of new coastal roads to be built entirely on landfill or reclaimed land

Written by Kavitha Iyer | Mumbai |
October 4, 2011 3:55:37 am

Three tunnels,including one running under the length of the Juhu beach,as well as a slew of new coastal roads to be built entirely on landfill or reclaimed land and a couple of small bridges are the key components of the latest plan for a ‘Western Freeway’ for Mumbai.

The plan,presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday,while urging him to expedite in-principle approvals,not only does away with the Worli-Haji Ali Sea Link,but also sets an aggressive deadline of five years for completing work on the 29-km route.

Prepared by the 12-member Joint Technical Committee on Coastal Roads set up under Municipal Commissioner Subodh Kumar at the behest of former Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh to make recommendations for a freeway with minimal impact on Coastal Regulation Zone areas,the plan is a combination of roads,new roads on reclaimed land,tunnels and bridges.

All these are proposed to connect Nariman Point in South Mumbai to the Malad-Marve Road in the north-west.

Three tunnels are proposed — one under Malabar Hill connecting Girgaum Chowpatty/Walkeshwar to Priyadarshini Park,another under the Bandra Bandstand hillock to connect an arm of the existing Bandra-Worli Sea Link to a newly widened coastal road between Bandra and Khar and one under the length of Juhu beach,proceeding to Versova and further northward.

Two small bridges are proposed — one is to permit fishing vessels to operate unhindered from the Chimbai fishing village in Bandra and the other is a long-span bridge around the Samudra Mahal building near Haji Ali,an additional connector for the Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan Road and the Lala Lajpatrai Road.

“As much as 22 km of this 29-km coastal freeway is on already existing roads,though some may need widening,” said one of the members of the committee. Another member said the most convincing aspect of the plan is its comparative cost analysis with the proposed sea link. While the Worli-Haji Ali Sea Link contract value is Rs 5,100 crore,the entire 29-km proposed freeway is estimated to cost Rs 6,000 crore.

The proposal does away with the need for a Worli-Haji Ali Sea Link,instead proposing to widen the existing Worli Seaface road and Lala Lajpatrai Road. To assist in the dispersal of traffic at Haji Ali,one of the city’s worst traffic bottlenecks,the presentation proposed a new coastal road on reclaimed land from Haji Ali around the Mahalaxmi Temple to the mouth of the tunnel at Priyadarshini Park.

“The key objectives of the latest plan are to avoid construction work in the sea,to minimise land reclamation,make better use of existing roads and investments by recycling them,” said architect P K Das,an expert member of the joint technical committee.

Additional open spaces,cycling tracks and amphitheatres are also to be created along most of these roads,also involving minimal land reclamation.

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