For anyone commuting on the Pune-Mumbai Expressway and Old Highway at any time of the day, the name Amrutanjan Bridge is synonymous to nightmare of traffic jams. The stretch, which is already a bottleneck for traffic flow, becomes a blocking point due to accidents and breaking down of heavy vehicles, which takes place at least 15 to 20 times a month.
On Thursday morning around 8 am, two trucks met with an accident and went on to hit a pole of the bridge. This led to a traffic jam on one of the lanes for three hours before the trucks were removed with the help of cranes. “This has now become an everyday affair. This is the only stretch on the Expressway which has sharp turns. Also, because of various technical problems during construction, the Expressway and Old Highway overlap on the 10-km patch, making it a major traffic bottleneck,” said an official of the Borghat TAP (Traffic Aid Post) of the State Highway Patrol (SHP).
“This patch between Khopoli and Khandala have steep slopes and it results in breaking down of heavy vehicles. Broken down vehicles cause long traffic jams. Also, heavy vehicles of a significant length, get stuck as they do not get adequate turning radius or at times the driver cannot judge the turn. This patch of road is in a dire need of infrastructural changes. Otherwise, there is no point in calling this an Expressway between two cities,” he added.
As per the data with the SHP, every month at least 15 to 20 traffic jams are reported. Some of them last even for three to five hours.
S G Sonavane, Superintendent of Police with the Pune division of the SHP, said, “We have written to the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and IRB (company that maintains the Expressway) several times, highlighting necessary changes. The IRB does not have the adequate equipment
to remove the broken down vehicles or the vehicles that meet with accidents.”
Another SHP official said, “We have observed that many drivers of heavy vehicles turn off the engine on the slopes and drive in neutral gear but they often meet with accidents as they are unable to control the speed.” He added, “We have seen the situation get worse over the past few years, and looking at the ever increasing traffic between the two cities, the government must act immediately. An alternate route is the need of the hour.” MSRDC officials could not be contacted for comments.
Accident prone too
Due to the sharp turns on Amrutanjan Bridge, heavy and light vehicles on the Expressway have to swap lanes. An State Highway Patrol officer said, “On any normal patch of the Expressway or highway, heavy vehicles are on the right lane, while the lane on the left is for light vehicles, but due to the sharp turns in the Khandala Khopoli stretch, heavy vehicles have to come to the right to take a turn. This has resulted in many accidents involving both heavy and light vehicles. Approximately 10 to 15 deaths are reported every year on this stretch.”