What is the real hold-up with the opening of the Vasai east-west flyover? The MMRDA maintains that that bridge is "incomplete", but mid-day has found that except for minor barricading work on a nearly 100-m stretch, the bridge is ready.
The east-west Vasai flyover, which has been in the making for the last seven years. Pic/Hanif Patel
Besides, it has been learnt that the agency has already written to the chief minister's office, seeking a date on which Devendra Fadnavis can throw open the flyover. But, the CMO has been non-committal on giving an appointment, which is causing the needless delay.
When mid-day visited the spot on Saturday, we found the MMRDA's claim of work still underway at the bridge falling flat. Not a single worker was on the bridge - a clear indication that the bridge is ready for use. Besides, the road has been blacktopped, the lanes demarcated, the safety wall and the footpath painted, and signboards displaying speed limit instructions and directions erected.
All that the MMRDA has to show for proof of pending work are some barricades for safety wall stacked together on a small stretch of the flyover, a board that reads that the 'work on the safety wall is yet to be completed and the bridge will be thrown open to the public once the job is done', machinery and a few iron rods left on the bridge.
'Need 15 more days'
Engineers working on the bridge claimed that 15 days of work is still pending. Sumant Ghodke, junior engineer, said, "We have not opened the bridge because the work on the parapet wall as well as erecting railway protective screens (barricades) is incomplete." Ghodke further said work on expansion joints and bridge barring is also pending. "We will open the bridge only after all these pending works are completed. For us, public safety is top priority."
The road has been blacktopped and the marking of lanes has been completed. Pics/Prabhanjan Dhanu and Hanif Patel
Workers run away
Ghodke claimed that public fury over the delay in opening the flyover had frightened the workers away. "We have brought in a new batch of workers to complete the work."
The flyover has been seven years in the making. For years, all of Vasai and Naigaon has had to depend on a narrow 50-year-old bridge to cross from east to the west. With such a large population dependent on a single bridge, it can take up to three hours to cross it in peak hours. Motorists had expected the bridge to be inaugurated by Fadnavis on Wednesday, after reading news reports on it, but when they found the flyover shut on that day, they rook matters into their own hands and forced it open. A day later, the MMRDA shut the bridge with iron girders, and later, the riot police called in to guard the flyover.
Addition Metropolitan Commissioner Pravin Darade said, "We also want the ROB to be thrown open to the public. After all, it has been constructed for them. But there are minor works yet to be completed. In the next two weeks, the work will be completed." Attempts to contact the CM didn't yield any response.
'When will we be the priority?'
Raja Gholap, Vasai resident
Even a layman can figure out the bridge is complete. We don't need an expert to tell us that it is incomplete. Officials are waiting for the CM or a political bigwig to inaugurate it, and gain political mileage from the situation.
Salim Chunawala, Businessman
People are never the priority. We will have to wait and watch when the CM will inaugurate it. The bridge has been made from taxpayers' money, and not the CM's. We are going to use the bridge every day, not the CM.
Monitoring traffic on the current bridge during peak hours is a daunting task, said Ranjit Pawar, Vasai police inspector (traffic). Pawar himself turns up to regulate the flow of traffic when congestion is at its peak. "Once the bridge is open to the public, it will ease the movement of traffic and the pressure on us will reduce as well. Four to five traffic police personnel are deployed on both ends of the bridge round-the-clock," he said. He hoped that the pending work on the flyover would be wrapped up soon before the onset of the monsoon. "Otherwise, the situation will worsen," he cautioned.