If you regularly drive to Navi Mumbai, Pune or Konkan and are used to crawling in traffic for up to 45 minutes along the Sion-Panvel stretch, be prepared to spend more time on your commute.
For the next two to three years, work on the Sion-Panvel expressway project could increase congestion on the stretch, which is already prone to traffic jams.
The Rs1,220-crore project proposes a 10-lane expressway between Sion and Panvel, which will facilitate faster exit and entry from Mumbai for from Navi Mumbai, Pune, Konkan and Goa. Work on the project began in May last year, but the crucial work, such as building flyovers, underpasses and railway bridges is set to begin now. As a result, some lanes on the existing route will be sacrificed to construction work, making the motorable stretch narrower. Bottlenecks in these stretches will slow traffic flow on the entire route.
Currently, motorists take at least 2 hours to reach Panvel from Mumbai. If there is heavy traffic, this can go up by 60 minutes, which when construction begins in full swing, could be even longer.
However, authorities say motorists will have to bear the inconvenience if they want better roads in coming years.
“The official running time of the Shivneri Volvo buses on the Dadar-Pune route is three hours, twenty minutes. In case of traffic, it takes almost four hours,” said an MSRTC spokesperson.
Motorists now dread the monsoon, when potholes and bad roads could worsen the situation. “I can’t imagine how bad it will become if there are more bottlenecks,” said Ranjit Singh Sandhu, an executive in a pharmaceutical company, who drives from Ghatkopar to Kharghar daily.
Rajendra Jawanjal, executive engineer, Public Works Department, said they would ensure minimum inconvenience to commuters, owing to construction work. “At any point of time, at least three lanes on either side will be available to motorists. We are appointing two dedicated teams to take care of traffic jam. They will coordinate with the traffic police,” he said.
The Navi Mumbai Deputy Commissioner of Police (traffic), Vijay Patil, was not available for comment despite repeated attempts. Senior officials of the Mumbai traffic police were also not available for comment.