Mumbai: Eastern Freeway ramps may never see light of day

In a colossal waste of public funds, two years after completion, ramps for allowing mid-way entry onto Eastern Freeway yet to open. Piers built on marshy land need strengthening first; sharp curves are recipe for collision, says transport expert

Each time Shoaib Hussain gets onto the Anik depot-Orange Gate stretch of the Eastern Freeway, he keeps a wary eye on the two ramps running beside it. The 250-metre-long stretches are yet to be opened — they have been ready for two years, having missed the December 2013 deadline — but the Andheri resident knows that they are a disaster waiting to happen.

The south-bound ramp connects with the Eastern Freeway near Wadala at a sharp curve prodding the traffic police to permanently station an emergency tow van at the spot. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar
The south-bound ramp connects with the Eastern Freeway near Wadala at a sharp curve prodding the traffic police to permanently station an emergency tow van at the spot. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

The 250-metre-long ramps, were supposed to help motorists travelling between South Mumbai and areas like Sion, Kurla, Ghatkopar and Wadala get onto the freeway easily, but they are a textbook example of poor planning. The ramps have been rendered useless because they are built on marshy land and meet the freeway near Wadala at a sharp curve.

No green light
An expenditure of Rs 5 crore later, it might now be too late for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to go back to the drawing board. The traffic police have reportedly refused to clear the ramps' opening due to fears of accidents at the spot where the south-bound ramp takes a sharp curve onto the Freeway.

Sources said most vehicles on the freeway don't stick to the speed limit of 60 kmph. The traffic police wants signals to first be installed at the spot — a suggestion that hasn't gone down well with MMRDA authorities since the Eastern Freeway was pegged to be a signal-less stretch.

The ramp connects with the Eastern Expressway at Wadala on a sharp bend
The ramp connects with the Eastern Expressway at Wadala on a sharp bend

Prakash Mamdapuyre, chief of MMRDA's engineer department, said the opening of the ramps hinges on the traffic police's clearance. "The BMC has been asked to install the signals. Work has already begun. The ramps will be opened at the earliest."

MMRDA sources said, for the time being, a passing signal — asking motorists to slow down — has been installed on the freeway.

Without the ramps, motorists have to take a creek bridge at the Anik junction, travel almost 1.5 km in the opposite direction towards Panjarpol and then take a U-turn under the RCF flyover to go to South Mumbai.

An emergency towing vehicle stationed at the curvature - an accident-prone spot
An emergency towing vehicle stationed at the curvature - an accident-prone spot

But a reality check by mid-day on Saturday revealed that traffic signals alone aren't holding up the opening. The ramps, it turns out, have been built on marshy land — at at least two spots, the ground has been sinking.

A worker at the site said the land continues to sink despite being levelled repeatedly. "It's all marshy land. It is bound to sink." The pillars of the ramps are just 50-100 metre away from a mangrove plantation. With the ramps continuing to sink in, the plaster on pillars and girders at a number of places have begun to peel off.

An MMRDA official admitted that the land on which the pier of the ramps stand need to be first strengthened. "The piers were constructed on marshy land. All proper procedures were followed and the foundation of the piers was laid as per standards. There is no threat to the structure."

mid-day also found that the south-bound ramp offers little leeway to vehicles getting onto the Freeway — a sure recipe for disaster. The authorities are aware that the sharp curve is an accident-prone zone — they have stationed an emergency towing van near the south-bound carriageway. The MMRDA official said CCTV cameras have been installed to monitor speeding vehicles. "We can ask traffic police to deploy personnel near the ramps to avoid accidents."

Alternative spot
Transport experts have slammed MMRDA's poor planning. Expert Jitendra Gupta said the MMRDA is notorious for ill thought projects. "Take the Monorail and the cycling track projects, for example. Public funds have been wasted on them. The freeway ramp near Wadala is a dangerous spot. Had the MMRDA coordinated with the traffic police and discussed the locations with them, the ramps could have been thrown open a long time ago."

Joint CP (traffic) Pratap Digaonkar said, "No one has approached us for clearance of the ramps."

Accidents on Eastern Freeway

Sept 2013: A biker who had illegally entered the Eastern Freeway died in an accident. The pillion rider was
grievously injured.
July 2015: A motorist died and another person was injured when their vehicle rammed into the divider.
June 2015: Two persons were killed and three others were injured after the speeding car of lawyer Janhavi Gadkar (35) crashed into another car, having entered the wrong lane.

Clueless
The opening of the freeway ramps isn't the MMRDA's top priority at the moment. How do we know that? Sanjay Khandare, additional metropolitan commissioner, MMRDA, is not aware of the reasons why they haven't been opened. "I will have to check before commenting on it."

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