What’s in a name? Think, or rather ride the Western Express Highway (WEH).
There is nothing express about it, according to many motorists who travel through Mumbai’s second lifeline, after its local trains, as most of the city’s offices are located near it . The number of vehicle continues to chart an exponential rise, but the highway still remains the same in width, and extremely narrow at certain junctions.
The WEH, divided into 12 traffic divisions, is akin to the spine of Mumbai, but the 25.33-km stretch from Dahisar to Bandra is definitely not a smooth ride.
An officer attached with a traffic division said a reason for the extreme congestion is drivers cutting lanes . Policemen find themselves in a tight spot, some almost literally owing to traffic bottlenecks at various junctions. “We cannot stop motorists and penalise them. If we stop one vehicle, other vehicles will come to a halt and the backlog will stretch up to kilometres,” a constable said.
“During peak hours, the priority is to keep the traffic moving. The offences are registered during non-peak hours to ensure smooth traffic,” said Milind Bharambe, joint commissioner of police, traffic. Bharambe said, “The intensity of traffic is higher in the evening than in the morning. The main reason is because traffic is on the left side in the morning while in the evening, vehicles are on the right side.” The traffic police chief said in the morning, most vehicles moving from north Mumbai towards Bandra have the commonly-used diversions on the left, as a result of which traffic moves faster in the morning than in the evening.
So where does the problem lie? According to the police ,the problem lies in the design.
“The number of lanes is uneven along the stretch. It changes from four lanes to two near some of the flyovers on the WEH, while at some stretches, the six-lane route changes to three,” said an inspector.
The conditions are worse in the monsoon as the roads are riddled with potholes , officials said.
According to experts, the root cause of Mumbai’s pothole troubles is the poor quality of roads built by contractors. Substandard work is a recurring theme every monsoon, activists say.
But then, there is Dadarao Bilhore’s story. Bilhore, an Andheri resident, lost his 16-year-old son in an accident at JVLR in 2015 owing to a crater on the WEH. Since then, Bilhore has taken it upon himself to fill potholes wherever he sees them. Till date, Bilhore has filled 380 potholes by himself.
“Road safety will only be completely observed if appropriate action is initiated against contractors who don’t do their jobs properly,” said Bilhore.