Those who thought the wait for the Eastern Freeway would be over with its inauguration on Thursday, hold on.
After drawing flak from all corners for the delay in opening the freeway, the state government finally inaugurated the 13.6-km stretch of the flyover on Thursday. However, one may not be able to use it before Saturday, thanks to the rain-proof makeshift dais, constructed for the inauguration, which stands in the middle of the road.
The structure can be removed only by late Friday night, sources said, and the freeway will officially be opened for traffic from Saturday morning. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan inaugurated the Orange Gate-Panjarpol stretch of the freeway on Thursday.
“We had constructed a 80x30-metre stage with huge iron poles and tin sheets to make it strong so that it resists heavy rains or gusty winds. We have started dismantling it but the process is likely to continue till Friday night. We expect the freeway to be open to traffic from Saturday morning,” said a senior official from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), requesting anonymity.
Initially, the MMRDA had decided to open the Chembur-bound stretch of the freeway on Thursday night itself, as the dias was built on the south Mumbai-bound stretch near Orange Gate. However, the officials decided against it fearing the work on removal of the stage might obstruct traffic movement.
When contacted, Dilip Kawathkar, spokesperson of MMRDA, said: “As dismantling of stage might affect traffic on both sides of the freeway, both the stretches will be opened simultaneously after the stage is completely removed. We are trying to ensure that the freeway is open for traffic by tomorrow [Friday].”
While the state government and the MMRDA were being criticised for not opening the freeway earlier this week and waiting for politicians to inaugurate it, the dias for the same leaders now stands as the next roadblock.
A smooth, pleasant ride to Chembur
Kailash Korde, Principal correspondent
Like most Mumbaiites, I too had been eagerly waiting for a ride on the much-awaited Eastern Freeway when it was inaugurated on Thursday. While the freeway is yet to be open to traffic, the MMRDA arranged some vehicles for media persons to have a first-hand experience on the 13.5-km stretch.
If I had to describe the ride on the freeway in one word, it would be ‘smooth’ — with no jerks at expansion joints unlike most flyovers and a splendid view to go with the ride. With a light drizzle, a cool breeze and cloudy sky, the journey was a really pleasant one to say the least.
Although the MMRDA has put signs cautioning to maintain a speed limit of not more than 60 kmph on the freeway, the temptation to speed would most certainly be hard to resist for motorists.
Barring some minor work on the sides of the road, construction of retaining wall and fixing street light poles that is yet to be completed, the freeway is completely equipped with crash barriers, lamp posts, coloured road median and view cutters.
On the east side of the freeway, the sights include salt pans, huge cranes of Mazagoan dock, British-era godowns between Reay road and Sewree, refineries of HPCL and BPCL and the Tata Power plant to name a few.
Although MMRDA has estimated that it will take 20-25 minutes from one end of the freeway to the other, it took us less than 15 minutes to reach Panjarpol junction from Wadi bunder, which would have taken at least 40-45 minutes during peak hours via Priyadarshini junction.
However, life was back to where it was when it took me 35 minutes to travel less than 5km distance to reach my office at Elphinstone Road from Wadi Bunder.