Sunday, July 14, 2013

'Incomplete' Freeway fails to draw away traffic from clogged old roads

MUMBAI: Poor planning has made the Eastern Freeway fall greatly short of the government's promises. The recently opened stretch was expected to unclog the congested LBS Marg, Dr Ambedkar Road, the Eastern Express Highway and P D'Mello Road. But it has not. Nor in fact has it got the traffic load that it was expected to.

Before it was thrown open, the administration had estimated that the freeway would on average carry 32,000 to 36,000 vehicles every day. But the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority's appraisals now show that only about 22,000 to 24,000 vehicles are using it daily. Relatedly, it was anticipated that the freeway would reduce vehicular congestion on other arterial roads in the city's eastern parts by 60% to 70%. So far, it has managed to decongest them by 30%.

Motorists and transportation experts observed that the primary reasons for the freeway's under-use are four, all of them perhaps attributable to poor planning.

To start with, an entrance ramp to the freeway has been built at Reay Road and an exit ramp at Port Road; but both are closed to public pending studies of traffic movement and road alignment. Secondly, four ramps were to come up at Sewri Mudflats and near Bhakti Park; all of them will take another six months. Thirdly, very few motorists know about the three ramps near RCF Marg and Mysore Colony; it does not help that the signage at the spots are small and poorly positioned. Lastly, a 3-km flyover from the Chembur end of the freeway was to stretch to Ghatkopar and bring to the freeway substantial traffic from areas such as Thane, Nashik and Airoli. The flyover will not be complete till December.

All this means that the freeway, in practice, is left a two-way road from Orange Gate at Port Road to Chembur with few exits in between, said transportation experts.

"We do not know where the ramps will come up at Sewri and Wadala," said Ajinkya Bhalla, a Deonar resident. A daily user of P D'Mello Road, Bhalla recently tried out the freeway. But seeing that there was no exit at Wadala or nearby, he returned to his old route.

MMRDA spokesperson Dilip Kawathkar said the authority will put up bigger signage to provide motorists information on areas and directions. "Already, we are creating awareness about entry and exit points. We hope to finish certain ramps by December to offer circular traffic movement. The 3-km Chembur-Ghatkopar flyover will also be in use by then, facilitating decongestion of the eastern road corridors."