Motorists are fuming at the traffic jams they have to face every single day at the Versova bridge that passes over Vasai creek, a road that leads to Vasai and, eventually, Ahmedabad.
The bridge is an important connector to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway (NH-8) and is the fastest way to reach Mumbai via road from the western part of India. After cracks were noticed in one of the 48-metre long girders of the two-lane bridge in December, the traffic police closed off one lane to allow National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to carry out repairs.
For 10 minutes, officials allow northbound traffic, and for the next 10 minutes, southbound traffic gets the right of way. This wait causes a huge line-up of cars, sometimes more than 2-km long. This has irked commuters no end -- not only do they have to wait in traffic, they also have to shell out more for fuel.
Peak hours are the worst, with travellers having to halt for hours to cross over to the other side of the overpass. But, the problem is not limited to office hours -- traffic is seen even in the afternoon.
On Thursday evening, MiD DAY visited Versova bridge area and the southbound stretch of the highway to take a look at the situation. We saw vehicles lined up for more than 1.5 km, towards the bridge from Vasai. Moreover, there is no separate lane for ambulances, posing a life-threatening situation for patients coming to Mumbai from the Vasai end.
MiD DAY also spotted an ambulance that had got stuck in traffic. Its driver, Ajay Mishra, who was heading to Jagjivan Ram Hospital in Mumbai Central from Nalasopara, said, “There is a patient in my ambulance and I’m stuck in this jam.
The traffic police should come up with a solution so that emergency services like ambulances aren’t affected. I ferry patients from Vasai-Virar to several hospitals in Mumbai and from the day the bridge has been closed, it has become a serious issue. It takes more than 45-60 minutes to cover a 1.5-km distance. We waste time and fuel -- an extra 300 rupees are spenton each trip.
Navsari resident Naresh Patel chimed in, “There was never such traffic here. It has become a daily affair now. Since there is no other shortcut to reach Mumbai, we have no option but to take this route.”
A highway traffic official explained, “There are adequate amount of traffic police constables and traffic wardens on both ends of the bridge. We regret the inconvenience caused to motorists and we request them to bear with us till repair work is done.”
He also added, “We allow ambulances to take the wrong side of the road if it’s a severe emergency.” The engineer responsible for repair work told this correspondent, “We will be able to finish this assignment by the end of March.”
However, sources at NHAI revealed it would take much longer, because the bridge needs to be properly repaired and checked to ensure further cracks do not appear.
There are other ways to reach Mumbai -- while coming from Ahmedabad, drivers can take the Chinchoti-Anjur Phata road and go to Bhiwandi. From there, they can go to Dahisar via Ghodbunder Road in Thane. This route is very long -- approximately 35-45 km -- and it takes more than 2 hours to reach Mumbai, depending on traffic.
N Chamaria, who travels from Jogeshwari to his office in Nalasopara, said, “Driving on this stretch between Dahisar and Vasai is a nightmare. I used to spend Rs 3,000 on CNG every month. Since repair work started, I have paid more than Rs 6,000. It takes at least an hour to cover a small distance of 2 kilometres.”
Number of vehicles that pass over the bridge every day