Delhi’s Ashram Chowk underpass: Trial begins on chaotic note

A long traffic jam was witnessed in the morning near the exit point of the underpass towards Bhogal as a bottleneck had formed near the bus stand located between the underpass and Nizamuddin railway bridge
On Tuesday morning, there was no signage to inform the commuters about the fact that only one carriageway has been opened for traffic. (Amal KS/HT Photo)
On Tuesday morning, there was no signage to inform the commuters about the fact that only one carriageway has been opened for traffic. (Amal KS/HT Photo)
Updated on Mar 23, 2022 05:09 AM IST
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The traffic trial run at the Ashram Chowk underpass on Tuesday began on a chaotic note with no traffic marshals and signage directing the commuters, leading to a traffic jam during the morning rush hour.

Only one carriageway at the underpass (from Badarpur towards Nizamuddin) was opened for the trial even as the Public Works Department (PWD) was yet to finish work on installing ramp covers, build footpaths, foot overbridges and repair road surface that was damaged due to movement of heavy machines.

A long traffic jam was witnessed in the morning near the exit point of the underpass towards Bhogal as a bottleneck had formed near the bus stand located between the underpass and Nizamuddin railway bridge, a traffic official said. The second carriageway leading from Nizamuddin towards Badarpur remained shut with a team of workers clearing construction material and machines from there.

A PWD official present on the site said that both carriageways will be opened in “another one to two days”.

On Tuesday morning, there was no signage to inform the commuters about the fact that only one carriageway has been opened for traffic. A lone security guard could be seen directing the vehicles towards underpass ramp facing New Friends Colony. Several confused commuters could be seen stopping near the entry point leading to jams.

The construction equipment, cranes and a roadroller parked on the road for left turning vehicles moving from Badarpur towards Lajpat Nagar also added to congestion on the intersection. Several commuters remarked that opening of one carriageway has only added to the confusion and h congestion situation has improved incrementally, the pending works need to be completed for a full relief.

Rajender Sharma, a commuter headed towards Badarpur said that he was anticipating relief, but was left disappointed. “I had felt a sense of relief when I heard about the opening of Ashram underpass today. It seems the agencies have taken forever to resolve this traffic mess. We will have to wait for another week for some consolation,” he added.

A second PWD official stated that the week-long trials will be carried out between 7am and 10pm with a maximum speed limit of 40km/hour, and the second carriageway may take another one to two days as clean-up and maintenance work is being carried out.

The department plans to execute the remaining work on the underpass during the night, and the overall project is likely to be completed around 31st March 2022, the second official said.

During a spot check on Tuesday, HT found that construction material, iron bars and interlocking tiles have been stored on the pavements on the main Mathura Road forcing the pedestrians to move on the roads besides disrupting the flow of vehicles. Sharda Devi, a local resident said that with FOBs still under construction there is no other way besides jaywalking or taking a long detour.

A traffic police official present on the site said that five personnel have been deputed to manage the traffic at the intersection and regular interventions were being made when the congestion increased.

The underpass, one of the most delayed infrastructure projects in Delhi, opened for traffic trials nearly three years after the beginning of work during which it missed seven deadlines. The underpass was built between the Nizamuddin railway bridge and CSIR Apartments at Ashram Chowk -- the busiest traffic intersection in the city which used by nearly 350,000 vehicles daily.

However, a lasting relief from traffic congestion at the critical intersection may not be possible without the completion of work on the extension of the Ashram flyover. The flyover is being extended up to DND Flyway with a ramp towards Sarai Kale Khan.

S Velmurugan chief scientist, Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), said at least minimum safety interventions should be ensured by PWD before the complete opening of the underpass. “There are no markings, no signages, a small flex board about trial has been placed which is not legible, and there are no safety measures such as crash barrier,” he said.

He added that speed tables should be constructed at the surface level as FOBs are still under construction. He stated that PWD may have to redesign the stretch near the bus stop towards Bhogal end of the underpass otherwise it may lead to congestion being transferred from one point to another.

HT contacted the joint commissioner of police (traffic) Vivek Prakash regarding the first day of the trials at Ashram underpass but till late Tuesday evening a response was awaited.

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