With the monsoon just over a fortnight away, officials at the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) are in a race against time to complete its pre-monsoon work and make two highways in the city ready for the rains. However, the MMRDA’s method to repair the roads — cold-mix technology — which had been heavily panned for its inability to protect the city’s roads from potholes, only sets the stage for more doubts. Earlier, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had drawn flak for not filling potholes effectively by using the technology, which gets washed away in the rain.
The MMRDA was given charge of the Western Express Highway (WEH) and the Eastern Express Highway (EEH) just a fortnight ago. The state government had decided to take them away from the public works department (PWD) and hand them over to the planning authority after renaming them as urban roads.
This was done to escape the Supreme Court ban on bars, permit rooms and liquor shops within 500m from the highways. The MMRDA has now been tasked with repair and maintenance of the highways in Mumbai-Thane and it has limited time in available before monsoon sets in. Also, it has not got a good response from contractors to repair the WEH and EEH. The MMRDA had floated bids in the first week of May, but it has still not got bidders for seven patches on the Western and Eastern Express Highways and have floated bids for the second time in 10 days. UPS Madan, metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA said, “We have gone in for a second call for some patches as there were not enough number of bidders.””
The 26.5-km-long WEH and the 23.5-km-long EEH are the two arterial roads where lakhs of vehicles ply on a daily basis. The WEH connects Dahisar toll naka and Bandra, and the EEH stretches from Mulund toll naka to Sion.
A senior MMRDA official said, “We have not even prepared the bid documents. They were prepared by the Public Works Department and we have floated them. We are even going to use their staff and their process to complete the work as we have never handled these roads before.”
Meanwhile, another senior MMRDA official said they would not be able to experiment with other options to repair the two roads as they do not have much time. “As it is monsoon, we cannot use hot asphalt and hot-sprayed bitumen with stone chips. Though, we have not finalised the bids yet, but cold-mix as it is the best available option given the time and season,” said a senior official.
The MMRDA will fill potholes on the main carriageway and the service roads, along two of the city’s crucial roads. However, the authority will not carry out maintenance work on the flyovers as they are managed by a different government body.
Senior officials said that contracts for maintenance work would be awarded soon and the work is expected to be completed within 15 days. “We have invited bids for maintenance and repair work on the WEH and EEH. The same contractor will also carry out desilting work,” said an official.