According to transport experts and traffic police department officials, the gradient combined with the uneven road surface at Belapur pass on the Sion-Panvel highway has been causing at least one heavy vehicle to break per day, leading to congestion on the stretch. In addition, ongoing civil construction work near the pass for widening of the existing highway is further adding to the traffic woes.
According to traffic police officials, the gradient on one side of the pass is six, while it is five on other side. As per standard, the gradient should not exceed three.
The traffic police under whose jurisdiction the stretch falls has been facing a daunting task to ensure that traffic is kept moving on one of the busiest highways connecting Mumbai to the Mumbai-Pune Express Highway.
The Belapur traffic unit of Navi Mumbai traffic police has now stationed two cranes near the pass to tow heavy vehicles that break down while negotiating this difficult stretch. For the past year, the Public Works Department (PWD) has undertaken a road-widening project on the Sion-Panvel highway, which has reduced the six-lane stretch near the Belapur pass to four.
Rajesh Babshetty, police inspector of Belapur traffic police, said, “As per our records, five to seven vehicles break down every week at the pass. Since the pass is ‘S’ shaped, any vehicle breaking down here leads to an obstruction. Traffic at this point normally moves slowly and breakdowns add to the problem. Heavy vehicles are prone to breakdowns at the pass. So we have kept two cranes nearby to tow these vehicles off the road.”
The traffic police charges a little over Rs 800 for its towing service at this pass. Transport experts and the traffic department of Navi Mumbai police blame the high gradient at the Belapur pass for breakdowns.
Vijay Patil, deputy police commissioner (traffic) of Navi Mumbai police, said, “Vehicles break down while taking the turn at the pass, where the slope is more than the prescribed gradient. The gradient on one side is six, while on other side it is five. It should not be more than three.”
Jitendra Gupta, transport expert, said, “Generally, when any vehicle slows down at a turn, vehicles traveling behind have to abruptly apply the brakes. And in case of heavy vehicles, bearings break and this brings the vehicle to a grinding halt.”
As road widening is going on at this point, the Navi Mumbai traffic police department has written to PWD seeking reduction of the gradient.
“We have sent many letters to PWD asking them to ensure standard gradient of the road. The PWD replied that the gradient would be reduced while widening work is being done,” Patil said.
Mishaps on highway
Over 200 accidents have occurred on the stretch from Uran bypass to Belapur flyover in the last three years. Most of these mishaps have occurred at the Belapur pass. Incidentally, 27 people have lost their lives in these accidents.