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Bring all Mumbai roads under one agency, demand experts

In order to rid the city of the pothole menace, experts feel it is essential that one body maintain all roads in the city, to ensure uniform quality and accountablity

If Mumbai has to be pothole free, roads have to be under the aegis of a single body. This is what road and transport exports propose as a solution. They say that having a single agency would help maintain uniform quality across the city.

There are multiple agencies and departments looking after different roads and flyovers in the city. The Public Works Department (PWD) is responsible for the Western and Eastern Express Highway (WEH and EEH). The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) looks after arterial roads like SV Road, LBS Marg and other internal roads.

The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) maintains flyovers it constructed in the last five years, like the Santacruz-Chembur Link Road. Some flyovers are also under the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporations (MSRDC) – whose agency, Mumbai Entry Point Limited, collects toll at five entry points to the city and is also supposed to maintain a majority of flyovers on WEH, EEH and Sion-Panvel highway.

We caught a PWD-deputed contractor filling potholes just at the northbound end of the flyover near domestic airport at Santacruz. The workers simply filled the hole with tar and dumped some stones inside it to cover up the hole. When we started recording them ‘doing their job’, the workers retreated. Pics/Suresh K K
We caught a PWD-deputed contractor filling potholes just at the northbound end of the flyover near domestic airport at Santacruz. The workers simply filled the hole with tar and dumped some stones inside it to cover up the hole. When we started recording them ‘doing their job’, the workers retreated. Pics/Suresh K K

Speaking to mid-day, transport expert, Jitendra Gupta, said, “Since there are multiple agencies involved in making and maintaining roads, it’s really difficult to have the same quality of roads across the city.

There is no coordination between these agencies even while planning new projects, because of which, at different places, we see different types of roads. In order to have a proper network of good-quality roads, there needs to be a single agency whose job is the construction and upkeep of roads.”

Nightmare continues
This year, like every year, potholes on roads have continued to place severe physical and mental strain upon Mumbaikars. WEH, portions of EEH, large stretches of SV Road and LBS Marg are pockmarked.

The southbound stretch of Dindoshi flyover continues to be a thorn in the flesh, causing kilometre-long traffic snarls. The path inside Aarey Milk Colony is even worse – it has 500 potholes in a 4-km stretch. Promises made by the authorities, assuring people a smooth ride, have been dismally off the mark.

Even repair work is temporary; a couple of showers washes away the asphalt. Paver blocks are dislodged by heavy traffic, making the street uneven. “Experts who are experienced in making good-quality roads should be involved in the construction process. Before using the material, it should be tested so that taxpayers’ money isn’t wasted,” Gupta suggested.

A senior PWD official, requesting anonymity, said, “Having multiple agencies for roads causes a huge problem. Either the PWD or MSRDC should be given the charge of maintaining at least important roads, so that the quality of roads can be kept uniform. Contractors who are in charge of making the road should be given clear orders that no potholes should occur on the newly made roads for at least two-three years.

If they do appear, the firm should be blacklisted and barred from taking government contracts. Also, the agency looking after the roads should visit the location or conduct surprise visits to check if the contractor is using substandard material.”

A few good ones
The Bandra-Worli Sea Link has largely stayed free of potholes; it has been constructed using Polymer Modified Bitumen (PMB), a mixture used to construct runways. The elevated portion of the Eastern Freeway also employed the same mixture.

“Roads constructed using PMB material not only have a longer life compared to the other roads, but also make for a good driving experience,” said an MMRDA official. N V Merani, the former chairman of Standards Technical Advisory Committee, which advises the BMC on roads, told mid-day, “We had suggested that the BMC take up a planned programme for strengthening pavement and maintaining roads.

It is the civic body’s duty to maintain city roads, but we have various agencies coming in and creating confusion. We have given the BMC designs to follow, but they haven’t been doing so. Potholes occur due to poor quality of laid material and superficial treatment given just before monsoons.”

Why potholes occur
>> Poor quality of roads, and irregular and low-grade maintenance
>> Stagnation of water in potholes, which provides for their re-occurrence
>> Leakages in the water mains and drainage systems
>> Excavated trenches, if not covered up properly
>> Use of faulty technologies 
>> Not knowing the strength of roads, and allowing heavy vehicles to pass over it

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