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Monday Musings: Are flyovers in Pune a problem or solution to traffic woes?

Pune: In one of its documents published on Smart City project around five years ago, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) had stated that the city “aspires to become global urban centre”
PUBLISHED ON FEB 14, 2021 05:15 PM IST

Pune: In one of its documents published on Smart City project around five years ago, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) had stated that the city “aspires to become global urban centre”. The document also had a footnote that mentioned citizens of Pune enjoy “safe” and “liveable” environment with good connectivity. The situation on ground suggests that the city is witnessing an alarming rise in traffic jams, resulting in deterioration in air quality and increasing noise pollution. The reality, citizens say, is grim.

To deal with the “grim” situation, politicians have a pet answer. That is to build flyovers. Pune along with Pimpri-Chinchwad currently has over 50 flyovers with another 10 either under construction or proposed. The latest addition to this list is a flyover at Katraj junction and its construction will begin within a month.

PMC had earlier proposed to build a flyover at Katraj junction to resolve the traffic woes at the spot, where two highways intersect and the stretch is also an entry point for the city. As the civic body could not take up the work due to fund shortage, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has decided to finance it. Once complete, the flyover will supplement the six-lane Katraj-Navale bridge stretch, work for which is underway.

But that was not the only flyover announcement by Union minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari during his visit to the city on Saturday (February 13) when he also reviewed another flyover in the making at Pune’s western front of Chandani chowk. During the visit, the minister also proposed a 45-kilometre triple decker 16-lane road on the Pune-Ahmednagar highway.

Most of the flyovers operational in the city have often been a source of relief from traffic woes. However, the benefit is temporary for vehicle users and people residing in suburbs.

If bottlenecks at intersections have often led to traffic jams, flyovers constructed to decongest the city have merely shifted congestion from one point to another. So, those coming from areas as far as Wagholi or Kharadi on eastern parts to Ambegaon and Warje on the south and west may look at flyovers an easy way to enter into the central parts of the city. For those living in central areas, these structures have become an eyesore as it has resulted in streets of older parts getting further crowded, a common grumble of citizens. So, it is interesting when Deccan residents oppose PMC’s proposal of internal lane widening project tooth and nail. They have cited the heavy crowd on main streets adjoining these bylanes.

The traffic scenario that the city is witnessing is no exception to what other places are going through. In Pune, the civic body and other bodies are merely following the global path where planning and development authorities have only fetishised the flyover as panacea for traffic mess. As putative symbols of modernity or technological advancement, these flyovers have often helped lawmakers get votes.

These structures have often pushed addition of new private vehicles in urban spaces that are already congested by growing population.

So, the newly made flyover attracts more traffic, which in turn forces authorities to look for more flyovers as solution. Such goes the vicious cycle. With over 500 square kilometre area (post merger of 23 villages) and population above 50 lakh, Pune’s civic limits will see more vehicular traffic, and road congestions.

In Pune, there is another problem too – flyovers with faulty design. Be it the now demolished University junction flyover or one at Wakad, they have only added chaos. To build a flyover and demolish it within 14 years was not a “smart thing” that the city is aspiring to be.

To be really “‘smart”, Pune needs a robust public transport with flyovers as a complementary mean instead of the other way round. Globally, flyovers are being demolished to make way for spaces. Locally, we may need flyovers, but not at the cost of creating a situation where they have become problem than solution.

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