Traffic choke points around Mohali: Stuck in the slow lane

Hindustan Times, Kharar | By
May 31, 2018 03:30 PM IST

The roadblock: Find out how slow land acquisition is delaying the Chandigarh-Kharar highway, which is compounding the traffic chaos it was supposed to resolve.

The four-laning of the Chandigarh-Kharar highway, which was conceived to get rid of traffic jams and provide a smooth ride to commuters, is stuck in the slow lane. Conceptualised three years ago in 2015, the project is still grappling with land acquisition, and has ended up becoming a cause of further inconvenience to thousands of commuters.

Caught in the chaos: Traffic jams under the proposed flyover on the Chandigarh-Kharar highway are a daily affair.(Sikander Singh Chopra/HT)
Caught in the chaos: Traffic jams under the proposed flyover on the Chandigarh-Kharar highway are a daily affair.(Sikander Singh Chopra/HT)

The 368-crore project has already missed its December 18 deadline, which has now been extended to October 19. The major hurdle the project faces is of land acquisition. Even though around 17 hectares of land was identified for this project almost four years ago, only a part of it has been acquired.

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In view of the bottlenecks, consultants hired by NHAI have called for extending the deadline of this project to 2020. “It took more than two years to raze 250 structures and the acquired land is yet to be cleared. We have a similar number of buildings that need to be flattened. It is going to take time,” said an officer.

Sources said the L&T has so far got only 45% of the land required. Of this, major work has to be carried out on nearly 20% of the land. “Technically, the company has 20% of the land where the project work is to be carried out. Without the land for service lane and electric poles, this project cannot be completed,” said the officer.

The first delay was caused by the Punjab government’s decision to notify the acquisition in two phases, which caused the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to delay the release of its funds. The notification for a major chunk of land (11.13) hectare was issued in 2015 and the acquisition process is being completed now, while the notification for the remaining over 6 hectares of land was issued towards the end of last year. It’s only recently that the NHAI sanctioned 99 crore for acquiring this land.

In all, 500 buildings will be flattened for this project, of which the NHAI has razed only 200 with the assistance of the district administration. Since the acquisition involves many other state and central agencies, NHAI officials overseeing the project have to individually push the process to meet the deadline.

“We have been working with the district administration to acquire the land. Once this is done, the project will start in full swing. So far we have not been able to provide a free environment to the contractor firm,” said an officer, who requested anonymity.

Must read | Traffic choke points around Mohali: Growing commuting chaos

No traffic diversion possible

This is the busiest road as it connects Chandigarh to Ludhiana and other parts of Punjab. Around 20,000 vehicles cross this road every day, said an NHAI document quoting the traffic wing data. The contractor needs to construct a service road before he can start working on road widening and the flyover. Since land for this service road is not available, the work has almost halted. “In day time, it’s difficult to work on the project,” said BN Pandey, a consultant of NHAI.

Another engineer working on the site said, “Unless the contractor gets land for the service road, the flyover will keep missing its deadline.”

Dwelling on the perils of working in the midst of heavy traffic, an employee of Larson and Toubro, the contractor firm, said, “Many of our workers have had a narrow escape. Some people drive rashly without realising that some workers are on the site.”

The L&T project in charge, Teg Bahadur Singh, said they are worried not only about the safety of their workers but also about the well-being of commuters. “Any mishap can occur during the work, and it can prove fatal for commuters,” he said. “We will construct the service road and provide an alternate road,” he said, adding , “We have got some land and we are working on it to the best of our ability.”

The main work is done from midnight to 4 am when the traffic flow dwindles. “Even during that time, we have to work carefully as some vehicular movement continues,” said a worker, Maan Singh, who has been working here for last one year.

Commuters have to contend with heavy construction material strewn at various places on this road. (Sikander Singh Chopra/HT)
Commuters have to contend with heavy construction material strewn at various places on this road. (Sikander Singh Chopra/HT)

Nightmare for commuters

People have a harrowing time while navigating this road. “I have been seeing these pillars for almost a year now, but nothing is coming up. We have to suffer traffic jams every day,” groused Akshit Chadda, who drives from Chandigarh to Kurali every day.

Deepak Prasad, an auto driver, said, “Driving on this road is horrible. Traffic jams, and the dust make it tough, but we don’t have any option.”

Anatomy of the project

The project, designed to carry 50,000 vehicles a day, aims to widen the road between Balongi and the Kharar T-point. This 10.2-km project will have two flyovers besides three minor bridges. There will be a 3-km elevated road from the Balongi light point to Sunny Enclave. There will also be a surface road from Sunny Enclave to the BSNL building in Kharar. A 1.3-km elevated road will be constructed from the BSNL building to the Khanpur T-point.

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    Saurabh Chauhan is a correspondent reporting from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, covering Social Welfare, Women and Child Development, Agriculture. Previously reported from Mohali (Punjab), Shimla (HP) and covered Political, Civil Admin, Finance beats.

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