In yet another push to bring a marked infrastructure development in improving the connectivity between the two cities - Mumbai and Pune, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has plans to construct around 15 flyovers on the old Mumbai-Pune Highway (NH-4) at an estimated cost of Rs 2,600 crore.
The latest initiative was discussed at the recent MSRDC board meeting, which was held last month, and is to be built on the lines of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway, which boasts of flyovers at major junctions.
"Every passing day the volume of traffic on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway is increasing, and it is anticipated that in the coming years the old Mumbai-Pune Highway will also witness surge in vehicular traffic. Hence, it is better to plan and have a proper infrastructure in place in advance," confirmed Arun Deodhar, MSRDC superintending engineer and in-charge of the project.
"The current estimated cost of the project is Rs 2,600 crore, and will be undertaken on a Public-Private Partnership financial model. We intend to complete the project by 2017," said Deodhar.
According to MSRDC plans, the flyovers will come up at major intersections on the NH-4, though exact locations haven't been finalised yet (See map below). SRDC will appoint an expert committee that will conduct a feasibility study, after which the report will be prepared and tabled before the MSRDC board for final approval. Once approved, the tenders for the project will be invited next year and the construction is expected to be complete in five years. But, the striking benefit for motorists is that they won't have to pay any additional toll to use the new flyovers.
Some of the locations or important intersections on NH-4 where these flyovers might be built are Dan Phata, Lodivali, Chowk Naka, Karjat Phata, Ramwadi-Nishiland Park, Nadode Gaon, Khalapur, Ghodawli Phata, Mahad, Palasadhari, Shedwali and Khopoli.
"The idea behind building these flyovers is to curb accident rates at key intersections along the NH-4. As per a survey by our experts, there are several villages along the way and vehicular traffic converges at these junctions, thus making them susceptible to accidents," explained another MSRDC official, on condition of anonymity.
Presently, traffic is a major issue on the NH-4, especially on the notorious ghat section. Many motorists use the old highway to reach Lonavala and Pune in order to avoid paying the heavy toll levied for using the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. By constructing the flyovers, MSRDC will augment the capacity of the old highway and segregate both the highways connecting the two cities. Currently, vehicles plying on either of the highways share a portion of 16-km between the Khopoli and Lonavala stretch. It is a known fact that the section between Khopoli and Lonavala is notorious for several breakdowns, and many accidents occur due to the steep ascent and sharp turns on the ghat.
It should also be noted that, presently, motorists using the Mumbai-Pune Expressway (MPE) are often stuck in the traffic jams occurring at the ghat section, as the stretch of the old highway bypassing the ghat has been closed.
As the traffic from the old highway converges with MPE at the ghat section, it creates a bottleneck in the area. The issue of taking up this project on priority basis was also discussed at the MSRDC board meeting.
"In order to solve the present traffic problem on the MPE stretch along the ghat, we have plans to construct two tunnels that will start at Khopoli and end just before Lonavala. The project is in its planning stage, and soon we will appoint a Technical Advisory Committee to study the project," said MSRDC Managing Director and Vice Chairman Bipin Srimali.
As per the proposal, two sets of parallel bridges of 865 and 810 metres (either way) will be constructed, apart from two sets of tunnels measuring 1,620 and 7,755 metres between Khalapur, Khopoli and Sinhagad Technical Education Society (Lonavala).
The tunneling project is part of MSRDC's expansion plans for the expressway. At present, the expressway has five tunnels and the longest tunnel is at Kamshet, near Pune, which is 1.5 km long. Once completed the tunnel will be the second longest tunnel in the country after the 9km-long tunnel in Rohtang Pass, which at present is the longest road tunnel in India.
Also, the old highway will be widened from four lanes to six lanes. The MPE will also be expanded from six to eight lanes. At present it takes four and half-hours to reach Pune from Mumbai via the NH-4, and once the flyover and tunnel work is complete, it will take three hours and forty-five minutes. This means that motorists will save 45 minutes, and also a lot of fuel that is used while climbing the ghat section. The approximate length of these flyovers will be 300-500 metres, and will be built between Panvel and Pune.