They waited for seven years for its completion. Then they waited a full month for its inauguration, before taking matters into their own hands
As thousands of people spent hours stuck in traffic every day, crossing the old Vasai bridge to get to work, school, hospital or anywhere else, their only solace was that their troubles would be over as soon as the new flyover was opened. But when the new bridge remained shut even a month after it was ready, locals decided to take matters in their own hand, and opened it themselves yesterday.
Commuters forcibly removing the barricades to allow vehicles to ply. Pics/Hanif Patel
Vasai residents are now alleging that the MMRDA has been holding up the inauguration because they want Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to cut the ribbon, but the CM has not been able to give them an appointment yet. These rumours sprung up after citizens read news reports that the CM would be inaugurating the flyover yesterday.
Locals had heard that the ROB was to be inaugurated yesterday. When that didn’t happen, they did it themselves
For years on end, all of Vasai and Naigaon has had to depend on a narrow 50-year-old bridge to cross from east to west. With such a large population dependent on a single bridge, it can take up to three hours to cross it in peak hours.
The new bridge was seven years in the making, and locals were counting the days till its inauguration. So imagine their dismay when they turned up last evening, expecting a smooth cruise home, only to learn that the bridge was not being opened after all. Vasai businessman Porus Jokhi was the first to take matters in his own hands. “I had heard that the CM was going to open it today but that did not happen. I was going home and there was a huge traffic jam. For a month, the bridge has been completely ready but we could not use it. It was very frustrating, so I finally got out of my car and started removing the barricades.”
Once Jokhi took that first step, all hell broke loose and others jumped in to remove the barriers as well. “One cop tried to stop me, but a few youngsters supported me. Together we removed all the barricades and the vehicles started moving smoothly on the bridge. Politicians are not more important than the common man. Public officials should understand that,” added Jokhi.
“This new bridge is very important as it connects us to the industries in the east, as well as schools and a hospital. The old one was always choked with traffic, so the new bridge is a big relief,” said Nalasopara resident Kishor Trivedi.
When mid-day asked MMRDA joint project director Dilip Kawathkar why the bridge was yet to be opened, he said, “It is true that MMRDA has constructed the 736-metre-long and eleven-foot-wide ROB that will connect Vasai east with Vasai west. The final touches are yet to be made, after which we will open it to the public.” While Kawathkar refused to comment on whether the CM had been invited to open the bridge, sources told this paper that the administration had approached the CM’s office for the inauguration.
— Inputs by Ranjeet Jadhav
Sajid Sheikh, Local resident
Earlier I was little afraid, but as more people went to open the bridge, I joined them as well. It was a daring act by Vasai locals, as we were frustrated by the delay. Now we are happy that bridge is functional.
Kishor Trivedi, Nalasopara resident
There is always a long queue at the ROB, and during peak hours we have to wait for hours just to cross between east and west. In the past, I have even seen ambulances stuck in the traffic.
Porus Jokhi, Vasai resident
Minor work may be left, but the bridge is ready and traffic can move easily on it. The bridge is a huge relief for Vasai locals. We have faced problems for so many years due to the old bridge. Now the new bridge has two proper lanes and is a big relief.
The new Rail Over Bridge runs over the railway tracks and connects east and west Vasai. Work began in August 2009 and a deadline was set for February 2011. However, the project overshot this mark and was finally completed last month, after a delay of nearly five years.