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Will Mumbai’s Coastal Road ease city’s traffic woes?

While work on Phase 1 of Rs15,000­ crore coastal road project is expected to begin in October, experts believe it may not ease traffic woes considerably; phase 2 has not even got off the block

mumbai Updated: Apr 20, 2018 16:41 IST
Sanjana Bhalerao
Construction of the ambitious Rs15,000-crore Mumbai Coastal Road – expected to be the next big solution to end the city’s traffic woes – is likely to start in October
Construction of the ambitious Rs15,000-crore Mumbai Coastal Road – expected to be the next big solution to end the city’s traffic woes – is likely to start in October(File photo)

Construction of the ambitious Rs15,000-crore Mumbai Coastal Road – expected to be the next big solution to end the city’s traffic woes – is likely to start in October. But work is set to begin only on a 9.98-km stretch (phase 1), from Princess Street flyover to south end of the Bandra-Worli sea link, of the 29.2-km highway that is proposed up to Kandivli.

While authorities are confident that phase 1 of the project, which is expected to be opened for motorists by 2022, will improve traffic movement between the island city and the suburbs, questions remain over how much relief it will actually provide motorists.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) estimates 3,43,126 PCUs (passenger car units) will use phase 1 of the coastal road every day by 2024. But experts beg to differ, especially given how the actual count of vehicles using the Bandra-Worli sea link is half of what was projected before it was built.

The Rs6,000- to Rs7,000-crore phase 1, experts believe, will also lead to a traffic bottleneck at the north-end of the sea link, where too many vehicles will suddenly converge on to the Western Express Highway (WEH). “This [phase 1] will provide only partial solution, may be to those travelling between Peddar Road and Haji Ali. For the entire project to be successful, the city needs connectivity after the sea link, from Bandra to Versova and further to Kandivli,” said AV Shenoy, a city-based transport expert. “If they build only phase 1, motorists will get stuck at Western Express Highway.”

The project was divided into phase 1 and 2 last November as the BMC wanted to fast-track the approval process, given the several clearances – especially ones related to environment – that would be needed. Later, in December, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation received a nod from the state to construct the 5.6-km Versova-Bandra Sea Link (VBSL), which will be a part of the coastal road. However, the MSRDC is yet to get clearances from the forest department for the mangroves that need to be removed at three sites – Otter’s Club, Bandra; Juhu Koliwada and Nana Nani Park, Versova – to build connectors between the sea link and the mainland.

The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority has already raised a red flag, as phase 2 will require large-scale reclamation of land, for which at least 33.17 hectare of mangroves will have to face the axe.

To complicate matters, there is no clarity on which agency will build the phase 2 of the project from Versova to Kandivli.

While uncertainty prevails over phase 2, BMC is in the final stages of awarding contracts for phase 1. The proposals of 17 bidders, who have qualified, are being analysed by a BMC-appointed consultant. After the analysis, financial bids will be opened and contract awarded to the lowest bidder.

Sanjay Mukherjee, additional municipal commissioner, said relevant changes have been made to the original plan of the project, making it more relevant. “The initial plan was just a by-pass, which would have provided connectivity from point A to B. But now, the coastal road will have interchanges and it will decongest roads. It is a multi-modal project and not one that will only facilitate private transportation.”

Experts, however, question the need for such a project. “All infrastructure projects in the city should be viewed collectively and not in isolation,” said Ashok Datar, a transport expert. “There are three metro lines, which will come up to ease traffic in the suburbs. The Western Railway is upgrading its infrastructure. Why could the authorities not review all these projects before spending crores on the coastal road?”