Govt wants to shut road for repairs; police resist
The government’s view was supported by experts, who said there was no other option, but opposed by Delhi Traffic Police, which is the final authority on road closures, on the grounds that the road in question is one of the city’s principal arteries.Updated: Oct 08, 2020, 02:04 IST
Closing the Ashram-Nizamuddin section of the Mathura Road for 10 days is the only way to address the chaos at the intersection with Ring Road, Delhi minister Satyender Jain said on Wednesday during a visit to the area after HT reported how the project to decongest one of the busiest junctions of the national capital has instead turned it into a traffic and pollution hot spot.
The government’s view was supported by experts, who said there was no other option, but opposed by Delhi Traffic Police, which is the final authority on road closures, on the grounds that the road in question is one of the city’s principal arteries.
Along with officials from the public works department (PWD) and the Delhi Jal Board, Jain on Wednesday reviewed the state of the area where traffic has been slowed to a crawl at all times of the day, the road surface cratered, and the air filled with dust from open construction material and the crumbling tarmac.
“Both the functional carriageways on the Bhogal side of the Ashram intersection are in a dilapidated state because there are water pipelines right under them. Delhi Jal Board (DJB) officials have said that every time they repair the water pipelines during the night time, it breaks due to the heavy traffic that starts from the morning. The constant digging and repairing have damaged the road,” Jain said.
To carry out necessary repairs, the stretch of the road between Ashram and Bhogal will have to be entirely shut, he said. “We will request the traffic police to give permission to the PWD to shut both the carriageways on the Nizamuddin side for 10 days. In 10 days, the water pipelines will be totally replaced and a completely even and paved road will be built. Even the ramp for the proposed underpass will be ready by then. We hope the traffic police cooperate.”
Taj Hassan, special commissioner of police (traffic), however, said it will be practically impossible to close both the carriageways for 10 days. “This is a main arterial road. Closing it fully in the day time will cause a lot of public inconvenience. We had permitted them to close the road for night hours, and we stand by that only,” said Hassan, adding that no letter making this request was received till Wednesday evening.
According to traffic department estimates, about 20% of the 400,000 vehicles that use the Ashram intersection come from or head towards Bhogal. The stretch is also used by people accessing the Nizamuddin railway station from the southern part of the city.
Experts said there is little option but to close the stretch entirely, especially because of the scale of repairs required to address the problems with the water pipelines. They warned that if the road was not shut temporarily, the problem would not be solved.
“Water is the biggest enemy of bitumen. The pipelines, in this case, were not at much depth so the top layer of the road will keep breaking if it is not fixed for once and for all,” said Dr S Velmurugan, chief scientist, traffic engineering and safety division, CSIR-CRRI.
“What is being done right now is merely a stop-gap arrangement. Allowing heavy and light commercial vehicles and buses on the stretch is worsening the situation. The road should be closed and the people should be asked to take Barapullah instead,” he said.
Velmurugan added that such problems would not have emerged in the first place had the PWD conducted a feasibility study for traffic management during the construction of the underpass.
The underpass cuts beneath Ashram Chowk and will allow traffic on the Mathura Road to proceed freely once built. But for its construction, a 175-m access ramp is being built on either side of the crossing. This portion is roughly 20m wide, which in the Bhogal direction accounts for two-thirds of the existing road width.
PWD chief engineer PK Parmar said a 10-day closure will allow the department to finish work on the access ramps and pull back barricades by 1-1.15 metre (about the width of a car). “The intervening night between Tuesday and Wednesday was the first of the three days given to us when the DJB started repairing the pipeline. But, by today afternoon the line broke again and the road was back to square one. Because of such less time given, PWD also cannot do filling and carpeting of the operational carriageways because it takes at least 10 hours for the carpeting to set,” Parmar said.
He added that if permission to close the road completely is not given, the situation is likely to remain the same.
For now, some of the mitigating measures include the rerouting of Delhi Transport Commission (DTC) buses, which could help reduce surface wear. Jain directed DTC to divert all its buses on the stretch, following which the transporter issued an order.
“Bus route number 460 operating between Badarpur Border and Minto Road terminal has been diverted to Lajpat Nagar flyover across Modi Mill flyover to connect to Mathura road. Buses on route number 413, operating between Nizamuddin Railway station and Mehrauli have been diverted from Sunder Nagar where they will have to turn right from Subj Bhurj Circle onto Lodhi road and then taking the Lala Lajpat Rai road…” the order said.
The order also covers the privately run buses under the cluster bus service. In all, 10 bus routes use the stretch.
A senior official of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), which built the underground Ashram Metro station at the same congested area without hampering the traffic much, said the agency always carries out trials before beginning work. “We always get a study done by an expert consultant and plan based on that during the construction phase. We carry out trials and hold public consultation,” the official said on condition of anonymity.