With the monsoon hitting the city with a vigour stronger than usual, potholes on the city’s vital veins -- western, eastern and Sion-Panvel express highways -- have reemerged, wracking motorists and their vehicles. Some are veritable death traps, catching commuters unawares and killing them.
MiD DAY visited the flyovers in the western, central and eastern suburbs to pick out the most backbreaking bridges, driving on which is like navigating through rough terrain.
It wasn’t easy to decide which one takes the crown being the worst. But the Malad flyover, where a pothole claimed a biker’s life recently, has to be the undisputed frontrunner. The flyover near Dahisar toll plaza -- an entry point to Mumbai city -- is an expansive mess, earning it the second position. That’s for the western express highway (WEH).
On the central line, it is safe to say that the most atrocious one to drive on is Dadar TT on Dr Ambedkar Road. The flyovers at Amar Mahal Junction and Mulund on the Eastern Express Highway (EEH) compete closely for the second position in the discreditable list, in that order.
Notably, it may be taken as a comment on Mumbai city authorities’ competence that flyovers out of city limits are better off. Those on the farther reaches of Sion-Panvel highway are leveller than the ones striding eastern and western express highways.
Western Express Highway
Most of the ditches on the WEH were found on the Malad flyover, followed by Dahisar Subway Bridge near Dahisar toll plaza, and then the Thakur Complex flyover.
More than two weeks ago on the flyover, near the Times of India Junction, 28-year-old Andheri resident Umesh Shinde had died after his bike skidded after tripping over a huge pothole on the southbound carriageway of the flyover. The giant pit has only got worse over the days. When MiD DAY visited the flyover on Thursday, we could count more than 30 small and big potholes on the road.
Not just lightweight vehicles, heavy ones like trucks have to slow down while traversing this flyover as well. The increased number of potholes is a cause of worry, as they make the flyover susceptible to accidents. Huge potholes have begun surfacing at the start of the southbound stretch of the flyover. Some are so big that two-wheelers can fall in them, as rainwater fills them up, virtually hiding them from sight.
Speaking to MiD DAY, a senior MSRDC official, said, “The maintenance of the Times of India Junction flyover is with J Kumar Infra Projects Ltd. As the bridge is in the defect liability period, it’s their job to maintain it. We have already informed the contractor and at some places he has done temporary repair work; the remaining will be completed soon.”
Roshan Jaiswal, a teaching professional, said, “It seems that the authorities are waiting for another mishap to happen as even two weeks after a person was killed, they have yet not levelled the potholes. My bike had skidded here once but I was lucky it wasn’t a major accident.”
The great paver block menace
As part of our road campaign, MiD DAY analysed the use of paver blocks by various government agencies to fill potholes. The agencies say it is a quick and temporary solution to fill potholes but transport experts do not recommend the method.
A government official, requesting anonymity, said, “Pavers blocks are meant to be used for pavements but using them to fill potholes or on roads is not advisable. If the surface on which they are fixed is not flat the paver blocks come off. Constant movement of heavy vehicles on these spots results in the blocks becoming loose and eventually coming off.”
Authorities began using paver blocks in 2000-2001. Initially, they were meant to be used only at junctions. But over time, authorities started using them on footpaths, pavements as well as roads, making several citizens sore. Apart from using them to fill potholes, civic body officials have been using them to cover bad patches on asphalt and cement-concrete roads for the past five-six years.
Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road Flyover
The flyover being maintained by Mumbai Entry Point Ltd (MEPL) has potholes at various places, making it prone to skidding incidents.
Thakur Complex flyover
Inaugurated four years ago, the bridge is afflicted with potholes on the southbound carriageway leading to the usual problems for commuters. Towards the south end, it is pitted and the surface has eroded. As the bridge is in the defect liability it is the job of the contractor to maintain it.
It is till in the defect liability period and its maintenance is the job of MSRDC and the contractor.
Kandivli local Jasbir Rawat said, “In just four years, the flyover has become so wretched that it is causing health problems. Because of potholes my back has started aching and I have to visit a doctor.
Other than traffic jams, I also end up paying more for the maintenance of my car.”
Dahisar Subway flyover
This is the flyover which most of the motorists take when they enter Mumbai from Dahisar toll plaza. And this is also the flyover where hour-long jams hold up commuters, thanks to the furrowed roads.
The bridge, which is being maintained by the public works department (PWD), is horrible to ride on, and driving through it is not only daunting but also risky.
After realising that fixing potholes will not solve the issue, PWD has now started replacing the road surface on the flyover with paver blocks.
On Thursday, when MiD DAY visited the subway bridge on WEH, we were taken by surprise to see that the work of replacing the tar road with paver blocks had been started on the bridge’s northbound stretch.
When MiD DAY took a U-turn on the same bridge, the road had worsened.
There were more than 20 potholes on the southbound passageway.
At some places the the upper surface of the flyover has eroded.
PWD executive engineer BB Lohar told us, “We are aware about the inconvenience that is being caused to motorists because of the potholes, so we have started the repair work. In the coming days, the flyover will be smoothened.”
Amey Sawant, a two-wheeler rider, said, “I don’t know why toll is taken from motorists when potholes on the roads and highways act as a death trap. Whenever I enter Mumbai from Dahisar toll plaza, I prepare myself for jerks and aches for the next two minutes. After I reach home, I find that a severe backache has set in. I can only request the authorities to repair the flyover as soon as possible.”
Potholes double travel time, fuel bills
Ranveer Bajpai, 27, daily drives from his house in Mira Road to his office in Andheri, through the Western Express Highway. In the past three months, business has forced him to travel all the way to CST.
Initially, Ranveer would get to his destination within a couple of hours. But with mushrooming potholes and endless snarls, commuting on the same route takes him twice the time, frustrating this young Mumbaikar. To add to his woes, his car guzzles twice the fuel than usual as it jerks along the potholed roads and weaves through traffic.
The 27-year-old claims that from Mira Road until the Dahisar check naka, he gets a clear path, but once he crosses the check naka, the problems begin. “The Dahisar flyover is currently under repairs and the pothole-ridden road is being surfaced with paver blocks, which will only worsen the problem in coming months because they cannot take the weight of heavy and multi-axel vehicles like trucks and will break.”
He continued, “The authorities should carry out the work during night to prevent motorists from suffering such stressful traffic problems. Every day, I drop my family members to office in Andheri and go to CST, but the never-ending traffic and countless potholes on the highway frustrate me beyond measure. Some of the flyovers are in such a bad state that be it a car or a bike, it is impossible to drive through without encountering one.”
Ranveer added that his fuel bill would amount to around Rs 500 a day before the monsoon, but the traffic and potholes have almost doubled the tab.
“Earlier I used to spend Rs 500 on fuel commuting to and fro between Mira Road and CST, but now I spend around Rs 900 a day. The money that I have to shell out on the servicing of the car is around Rs 2,000-3,000.”
Fed up with the traffic, Ranveer is all set to meet with the necessary heads to make sure that these problems are dealt with and others don’t have to suffer the way he does.
-- Nigel Buthello
A flyover that gives motorists a smooth drive on the WEH is the Kalina-Vakola flyover, which was repaired by the MEPL after MiD DAY published a story on its deplorable state.
Chheda Nagar flyover, Chembur
This flyover, along the EEH, only has a southbound road, which was filled with potholes of many sizes. Quite a number of them were gaping, making the road conducive to accidents and snarls.
The remaining were covered with paver blocks, with some blocks missing. The gaps may cause the others to loosen up and come off, which will prove disastrous for motorists.
Kunal Rege, a resident of the area, said, “I have to travel daily towards VT and the first flyover I take is the Amar Mahal flyover. It is ridden with trenches, making it difficult to ride over. I have to constantly look out for them so I don’t trip over one. The authorities should take charge and fix them to prevent accidents.”
Dadar TT flyover, Dadar (E)
Maintained by the BMC, this flyover is the busiest and the most crucial for those heading to the central part of the city. And yet, it has the most potholes of all, a majority of which are massive, and bring traffic to a stop.
They are located on the northbound carriageway, and during peak hours, clog the flow of vehicles all the way up to Parel. The southbound carriageway is rugged with a few ditches.
When contacted, a senior engineer from the civic authority said pleading anonymity, “On Friday we sent workers to fix the road but it was raining heavily and the repairs could not be carried out. Tonight (Sunday), we will send the workers again and if it does not rain we will make temporary fixes with paver blocks. If we get a dry spell of 48 hours we will make permanent fixes.”
Dadar resident Gerald D’souza said, “Many flyovers have potholes that make the ride difficult. Some are so huge you have to go around them to make sure you don’t fall. But in the process of avoiding the potholes there is the fear of dashing into vehicles in the other lanes. This is a potentially fatal problem.”
Mulund toll naka flyover
The northbound carriageway consisted of a few potholes, mostly small in size, but if not tended to, they are likely to expand.
The southbound carriageway had mid-sized potholes and uneven surfaces. Again, a few paver blocks layered over the potholes were missing, revealing the deep trenches
Smit Shah, a 21-year-old resident of this suburb who drives to Crawford Market daily, said, “Every year during monsoon, we face the problem of potholes. At some places, I have to slow down to a crawl to be able to move through the potholes without damaging my car. Those maintaining the flyover should really undertake the repairs sincerely.”
Sion Panvel Highway
The expressway that connects Sion with Panvel is also used by those heading to Goa and Pune. After visiting six flyovers on this road, we found that they are smoother than those in the city. However, the welcome absence of as many potholes is offset by the surface of the road, which has come off and made the road bumpy. We list a few here:
Jointly maintained by MEPL and MSRDC, the flyover’s entry point in south is rugged. The road surface needs to be topped off.
This is the first flyover motorists take to enter Navi Mumbai. On the southward entry of this flyover, we did notice potholes. Maintained by MEPL, the road was pitted at places, but by and large, the ride was smooth.
Mulund-Thane flyover, near Mulund toll naka
Even though this flyover is the closest to the check naka, the authority in charge of maintaining it has not tended to the deep and wide potholes on both the carriageways. They are difficult to dodge amid traffic, and cause the vehicles to slow down.
The centre lane of the northbound carriageway on the flyover was pockmarked with craters. Even though the authorities have tried to cover them with blocks, a few were missing.
Water welled up in these half-filled gaps, diverting motorists to the left and right lanes leaving the centre lane empty. The southbound carriageway did not have major potholes but the road surface was uneven.
Amar Mahal Junction flyover, Chembur
This one had a clump of potholes, specially at the two ends of the flyover. The middle stretch is relatively even.
The pits at the start of the northbound passage were covered with gravel and paver blocks, while those at its end were big, and bikers had to move around them to prevent an accident.
Sewri resident Faraz Khan said, “The point of taking a flyover is to cut travel time. A new bridge is problem-free but as time passes, potholes come up and cause traffic to slow down, sometimes to a complete halt. At some places, the ditches are so large that you have to decelerate to a creeping speed to dodge them, and prevent an accident.
Rainwater has puddled up in the nicks on the road. The drive gets easier towards the northern end.
CBD Belapur flyover
At the extreme left while going northward, the upper surface has given way probably on account of the incessant rains.
Flyovers in Navi Mumbai are much better than those in Mumbai except for a few potholes here and there. These bridges are a saviour because the roads below are filled with uncountable potholes.
-- Raju Chowdhary, Mankhurd
Pits are not as big an issue on the flyovers in Navi Mumbai but the rugged road surface is an issue. I don't know why the toll operator is collecting toll when it cannot maintain the flyover.
-- Anand Narwade, Jui Nagar residentI
Jayant Mhaiskar, chairman
of Mumbai Entry Points Ltd (MEPL), said, “As of now the fastest way to cover any pothole is with paver blocks. Until we get a dry spell of 48 hours we will have to use blocks as a temporary solution. Once we get the dry spell, the potholes will be resurfaced with concrete, a permanent fix.”
The authorities should take a serious note after the accident in which one person died because of a pothole, and in the last two weeks, more such pits have come up. Using paver blocks to fill them is a bad idea as two-wheelers can skid over them. On such rugged roads, motorists end up not only wasting time but also fuel.
If new techniques are adopted, potholes can be filled. With the advancement in technology, a lot of tar mixtures along with rubber and other friction-resistant polymers are at our disposal, but they need proper supervision while application for best results. The reason why every road or flyover – take for example, the sea link – does not have potholes is because the job has been done perfectly there.
-- Jitendra Gupta, transport activist
Contractors use paver blocks as a temporary fix for potholes, but the method is of no use unless the surface underneath the blocks is not flattened out properly. It is only when this surface is smooth that the blocks will stay in place, otherwise they will come out.
Every year the city faces the same problem of ditched roads, which are not repaired on time. The officials should give the job to those who are accountable and do the job on time, saving motorists from these yearly problems. Having a pothole-free road is close to impossible, but it is very much possible to reduce their numbers with timely preparations and reinforcements.
-- Ashok Datar, transport expert
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