The Mumbai-Pune Expressway seems to have earned the sobriquet 'killer road' because of a particular spot that has seen the most number of accidents ever since the highway was constructed.
It's a daily headache: Traffic congestion near the Amrutanjan
Bridge during morning peak hours;
The turn below the Amrutanjan Bridge, which is near Lonavla, has a serious design flaw that has confused thousands of motorists, with the authorities struggling to come up with alternative routes and technical changes. The plan for an alternative route also faces stiff opposition from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which is against any reconstruction or changes to the original structure.
The left lane in this stretch is for light vehicles and the central lane for heavy vehicles, which experts say should be the other way round. Motorists tend to get flustered while turning beneath the bridge, eventually losing control over their vehicles and causing accidents.
This happens particularly when changing lanes while approaching the turn, as drivers assume the lane reservation to be according to the usual arrangement and are unable to suddenly change lanes owing to the congestion on the patch.
Highway Safety Patrol officials say most of the accidents on the Expressway last year took place near the bridge, though there were only a few casualties. "Fatal accidents at the spot are less as vehicles are driving slowly, but even a minor mishap can throw the entire traffic out of gear because of the strategic location of the spot," said a Traffic Aid Post (TAP) official. The MSRDC recently ordered a study to find alternative routes from the spot, which also includes an elevated route and a tunnel directly ending near the Sinhagad College.
Executive Engineer AP Abrol said that lane arrangement was decided when the Expressway was built to overcome a technical difficulty. "The turning radius for large, heavy vehicles on the left lane was very small, thus making it a sharp turn. We therefore had to deviate from the usual lane arrangement and designate the middle lane for light vehicles," said Abrol.
The British-era bridge also falls under the Heritage Structure category, which disallows any reconstruction.
According to Police Sub-Inspector Dilip Talpe from the Khandala TAP, drivers of heavy vehicles have the habit of turning off their engines on the steep slope on the Mumbai-bound lane near the bridge to save fuel. "This leads to brake failure and several trucks and containers break down or collide somewhere near the bridge," said Talpe. The spot has also seen the maximum number of such breakdowns, with at least two minor incidents a week.
E-way accident stats for 2011
>> Fatal accidents: 39 with 58 dead.
>> Serious accidents: 43 with 128 injured.
>> Minor accidents: 56 with 81 injured