After a series of flip flops by the government over whether the ambitious Western Freeway project that aims to link the entire west coast should be a coastal road or a sea link, the latter got a push from the Centre recently.
Once the link is complete, traffic on SV Road and the Western Express Highway is likely to ease.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) has cleared the 10-km-long sea bridge that will cut down the distance from Bandra to Versova to less than 20 minutes. The expert appraisal committee on infrastructure, the CRZ and other projects gave the sea link the go-ahead in a meeting on October 18.
The minutes of this meeting were confirmed and released this week. The environment nod for the bridge comes with a few conditions for the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), the nodal agency for the project. MSRDC has to provide noise barriers, consult fishermen, get clearance from the forest department and the high court as required and not carry out dredging or reclamation.
The agency will also have to replant five times the number of mangroves destroyed for building the road on stilts along the Versova and Carter Road connector. With the green nod in hand, the real challenge for MSRDC will now be to complete the bidding process in time, senior officials said.
However, MSRDC's poor financial health may pose hurdles for the project as it will have to provide a Viability Gap Funding (VGF) - a grant provided by the public agency to the private partner to make the project commercially viable.
"There is rivalry between MSRDC and MMRDA over infrastructure projects. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has been pushing for a coastal road of 35 km as a cost effective option and this plan clashes with the sea link proposed by MSRDC," said a senior bureaucrat.
MSRDC in under the control of the Nationalist Congress Party and at a board meeting in August last year, it resolved to take up the sea link plan, reasoning that there was no finality on the coastal road project. The sea link has been cleared by a cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure.