While commuters on Mumbai roads have been facing traffic snarls and consequent delays since two weeks, owing to as many as 350 roads being dug up by various utility service providers, Tuesday saw marathon traffic pile-ups from the eastern suburbs to central Mumbai.
Even those driving during the afternoon saw traffic crawling from Chembur and Sion till King’s Circle owing to fresh road-digging at Gandhi Market on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marg and due to poor reinstatement of roads dug up around Sion Circle last week.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) confirmed that it has taken up road trenching works en masse this year with over 300 roads in the city either being concretised or given a new layer of asphalt, or for utility laying. Further, heavy machinery and the presence of a huge number of workers is crippling traffic on stretches such as CST to Mulund and Churchgate to Dahisar, making it impossible for people to travel without being stuck in a gridlock.
Multiple spots along LBS Marg in Kurla have been trenched too, leading to slow-moving traffic along the arterial roads on the central line.
The already-concretised road leading to King’s Circle flyover in Matunga, which was dug up to lay utility lines on Tuesday morning, contributed to most of the chaos. Citizens also complained about traffic problems in Chembur, Everard Nagar, near Prabhadevi, towards Worli and in commercial areas of Elphinstone and Lower Parel, apart from areas near SV Road in Andheri.
Besides road projects, authorities are also working on storm water drains, installing new sewage lines and aligning utilities — all at the same time.
“Even if I am travelling on a motorcycle, it takes me double the time to reach office these days. Why can’t the BMC take up repairs during the night instead of causing so much inconvenience to people everyday?” said Adrian Fernandes, an advertising professional who travels from Dadar to Worli each day.
City residents have also complained that autos and taxis have started refusing trips because of the traffic chaos near areas such as Dadar and Parel.
More bad news seems to await the city as the new year approaches.
The civic body is planning to undertake dig up around 75 more roads, mainly in the western suburbs, for repairs in the coming weeks. The traffic police confirmed that there are more than 400 pending applications that are awaiting a no-objection certificate before repairs are undertaken.
“Working on urban roads is always a challenge, especially in a city like Mumbai. A little inconvenience now will lead to a long term result later. We are following a plan of action to better Mumbai’s infrastructure. Also, since we are undertaking so much activity at once this year, we can assure no repairs will be undertaken on major roads for the next five years at least,” said S V R Srinivas, additional municipal commissioner (in-charge of Roads department). Srinivas added that the present road works in the city will be completed only by April next year.
On Tuesday, it was not just regular motorists who were severely inconvenienced by the hour-long traffic jams.
Ashish Yadav, attached with the Maharashtra Emergency Medical Service (MEMS) in Mumbai district, said ambulance drivers were a harried lot. “Ambulance drivers have reported issues with traffic in general but with the roads dug up, their commute has suffered. The lanes have become narrower and an ambulance can’t make its away through the traffic,” Yadav said.
With Sion and Cama hospitals, located in Sion and near the BMC headquarters respectively, the dug up roads have led to traffic snarls that impact ferrying of patients in ambulances.
Tukaram Shinde, a driver with 108 emergency ambulance in Sion hospital, said, “The highway outside Sion hospital has been dug up. We were stuck there for two hours. Now I take different routes to avoid traffic, but I come across several dug-up roads even then.”
Though people have welcomed the BMC’s intentions of improving infrastructure, they have criticised the civic corporation for stretching the projects into months.
“There is no supervision for the projects. If we had that then the work would have been completed way before. There is utter chaos in the city today because the BMC did not plan in advance and there is no co-ordination between departments. The only thing the BMC is interested in is spending the allotted amount as soon as possible,” said Rais Shaikh, Samajwadi Party leader and standing committee member of the civic body.
While the roads department of the corporation spent close to Rs 700 crore in the last fiscal, it had already spent over Rs 800 crore till the second week of December.
Senior officials from the department confirmed that more work will be undertaken in the next three months.
Chaos on roads, Mumbaikars a harried lot
As many struggle to reach their workplace, two locals recount their experience
Ferdinand D’Cruz, (Advertising professional)
I travel on my motorcycle every day from Sion to my workplace at Worli. It normally takes me around 15 minutes to reach in the morning, but yesterday I was stuck for around an hour because of traffic at the Sion flyover. Since the authorities have dug up the Babasaheb Ambedkar Marg near Gandhi market, it was very difficult to even get out of Sion. If people on motorcycles had to face so much trouble, we can imagine that people travelling in cars would have been stuck for hours. Our only request to the civic authorities is that they should double the number of workers undertaking repairs at night to complete work at the earliest. Since people do not travel much between 12 to 6 am, it would be the ideal time to spur the work and not cause an inconvenience for people travelling to work in the morning.
Ruchi Mehta Jain, (Media professional)
I normally take about 45 minutes to reach my workplace at Lower Parel. On Tuesday it took me an hour and 45 minutes to travel from Chembur to Elphinstone. The traffic was so slow that even bumper-to-bumper traffic is an understatement. Because we have fixed hours of working, it is important to reach on time, but that has become impossible with the construction activity being undertaken in the city. The municipal corporation should have at least intimidated citizens about the repairs through the media or signboards near the roads. We could have planned our travel schedules accordingly. Despite leaving as early as 8.15 am, one gets stuck in traffic each day.