When Seoul mayor Lee Myung-bak started a project to demolish Cheonggyecheon, a 9-km elevated highway passing through the heart of the city in 2003, and use the space to rejuvenate the river over which the road was built, many people, including experts, were shocked. The road was constructed just a few decades ago and millions were spent to build it.
The reason for the demolition of the highway was simple-- most of the traffic on it was ‘non-destined’ and was causing congestion and air pollution, besides leading to accidents.
The demolition of Cheonggyecheon is not a one-off incident. More than 108 such flyovers and elevated roads have been demolished worldwide to make roads more user-friendly, accessible and reduce accidents.
The case of NH-8 in Gurgaon is the same as Cheonggyecheon. The highway not only divides the city in two, but is also one the most dangerous roads in the city, both in terms of number of accidents and pollution levels. More importantly, the entire traffic on NH8 is not destined for Gurgaon. So the city is affected by the movement of vehicles in the region.
While demolishing the expressway will be an extreme step, NH-8 can easily be re-designed as an urban road, especially now that the Kundli Manesar Palwal Expressway will open soon.
Many cities around the world have successfully executed such projects. July 9 Avenue in Argentina’s Buenos Aires, which is the widest road in the world, is one such example. Another example is Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul that connects the Europe part of the city with the Asian part.
Taking a cue from successful examples across the world, here is what can be done for Gurgaon: 1. Designate NH-8 as an urban arterial road, 2. Shift the regional traffic on to KMP, 3. Construct adequate footpath and cycle tracks, 4. Reserve lanes for buses, 5. Create road crossing facilities for pedestrians, 6. enforce safe speed limit on the road.
(Amit Bhatt is a transport expert and head of NGO Embarq)
As told to Abhishek Behl