Chandigarh witnesses at least two accidents a day, and human error tops the list of reasons. But engineering defects and poor planning are a running thread in this traffic mess.
Certainly, accidents can be reduced by carrying out some changes, making improvements, or even getting the basics to function. For instance, streetlights need to be functional, slip roads need to be built, and correctly; cycle tracks need to be built and maintained; and, of course, footbridges or underpasses must be built where required. All this is stuck in red tape. Bureaucratic hindrances either do not let scientific studies prevail, or delay execution of works. Experts say that even if something concrete is started right now, solving the traffic engineering mess would take at least five years.
The Chandigarh police,after analysing accident spots, prepare detailed reports. They also suggest changes and other measures to check occurrence of accidents on the spot in future. But the proposals keep moving from one desk to another after reaching the UT administration or the municipal corporation. Around 150 such suggestions and changes recommended by the police are pending with the administration for two years. Rejection, too, is not forthcoming, keeping the issues pending.
Among the suggestions are construction of slip roads with proper signage at various points, building a footbridge in Sector 26 and at the inter-state bus terminus (ISBT) in Sector 43, signage against drunken driving at major roads and intersections, rumble strips at the accident-prone points, provision of underpasses on V3 roads, and a subway near ISBT-43.
Others include slip roads on Jan Marg, Himalaya Marg, Udyan Path, Sarovar Path, Chandi Path, Purv Marg, Vikas Marg and Vidya Marg; traffic lights at small roundabouts of Sector 1, 2 and 3; and pruning of trees for visibility of traffic lights and slip roads.
Maneesh Chaudhry, senior superintendent of police (SSP), traffic, Chandigarh, says, “Security and convenience of commuters should be paramount. Things cannot be delayed forever. Neighbouring SAS Nagar and Panchkula are also coming up with changes as per the increase in traffic. We keep sending proposals to the administration. The process should move forward on priority.”
Altered suggestions in case of technically or feasibly wrong recommendations are not possible, as even timely rejections are not forthcoming in many cases, say the police.
But MC chief engineer Mukesh Anand passes the buck to the administration: “We have to seek approval from the chief architect office of the UT administration. Then we have to invite tenders. If there is a project that is simply not viable, we tell the police. However, we do not have any major projects pending so far.”
As for UT administration chief engineer SK Chadha, he says there are no proposals held back “deliberately” if these can “prove fruitful”.
He turns the argument around on the police with a rhetorical question: “Is the Chandigarh police department not part of the traffic committee? We spend nearly ` 400 crore on various engineering proposals in the city. The police are not clear which proposal is on which stage. They don’t even know that some of the proposals have been completed.”
He stresses that engineering proposals “which are feasible and can be done” are given a nod, “while those not cleared by the planning department are held back”. “For instance, the traffic police have sought footbridges, but the proposal was rejected as Chandigarh has a unique character that does not allow such changes.”
He is quick to add, “The administration is getting done a detailed study of the city to see where traffic signals and pelican lights can be installed.”
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