Toll charged to use Aarey Colony road in Mumbai raises stink
Do you know of a toll plaza within metropolitan limits where two-wheelers must also pay for using the road? The question posed by riders using the pothole-riddled Aarey Milk Colony Road merits pondering, since it is the only one that slaps toll on two-wheelers, for a road that is woefully uneven.
The motorists feel wronged that the dairy department should charge them toll for bikes, even when the road is a stretch of potholes held together by tar, conducive to accidents by skidding. The CEO of the milk colony, though, says it’s just an entry fee.
Malad resident Ganesh Shetty said, “I have been using this road for the last five years but every monsoon potholes not only make our journey difficult but our bikes skid sometimes. More importantly I don’t know why they are collecting toll from the bikers. In my knowledge, there is no road where two-wheelers are charged toll.”
The road is arterial for east-west connectivity. Motorists going from Malad, Kandivli, Borivli and Goregaon towards Powai and the central suburbs of Vikhroli, Bhandup and Mulund use this road, which passes from the Aarey Dairy jurisdiction and connects Western Express Highway with Powai and Marol.
The contract for collecting toll on Aarey Road is with AA Auctioneers Contractors Pvt Ltd. The operator has to pay Rs 1.61 lakh to Aarey Dairy department every day. The job of maintaining the road is with the public works department (PWD), which did pre-monsoon work like patchwork and resurfacing two months ago. But within two weeks of the season’s initial downpour, ditches have come up on the road again.
On Wednesday MiD DAY visited the road and saw that the stretch that goes toward Marol is the worst hit. At places the tar surface has come off, leaving craters on the concretion. There are many poorly marked speed bumps on the road that bikers fail to spot at night, thus suffering falls. One such breaker is near Aarey Hospital.
A biker Sheru Rathod said, “I do not use this road often, but as far as I can remember, the condition of this road has only turned from bad to worse. The potholes in some places make it difficult to ride. The toll being collected from bikers should be stopped.”
Rs 6-crore profit
Sources from PWD told this newspaper that approximately 25,000 vehicles ply on this road and the revenue generated from it is not less than Rs 3.5 lakh in a single day. This implies that the profit earned by the contractor is Rs 1.89 lakh daily, and roughly Rs 6 crore a year.
When MiD DAY asked the toll plaza attendants why two-wheelers were being charged, they chose not to speak, saying only that we should contact the Aarey CEO for any questions.
A resident who did not wish to be named told MiD DAY, “This road is not maintained at many places. There are potholes throughout the stretch. I have also witnessed many bikers falling because of these potholes. The road should be maintained and repaired by the private company in charge before any fatal accidents occurs.”
MiD DAY also found that the display board mentioning toll charges was missing from the road at Goregaon end but was there at Marol and Powai ends.
Aarey Milk Colony CEO Ashok Jadhav said, “We are collecting the money from two-wheelers and four-wheelers in the form of entry fees and not toll, as Aarey Milk Colony Road is a private road. I know that it has potholes and I have already instructed the officials concerned to repair them at the earliest so motorists are not inconvenienced.”
Jadhav also said that his current contract would be over soon, after which plans are afoot to construct a concrete road on build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis. “The successful bidder will have to construct the road and maintain it. In return he will get the rights to collect toll for a period of over 16 years,” said Jadhav.
Senior inspector (traffic) S S Dalvi from Goregaon said, “I had informed the BMC to repair the road and they had gone to the site as well. However, they said the fillings would be washed away if it continued to rain, which is why they’d do the work by tomorrow afternoon.”
The work had begun while MiD DAY was at the spot.
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