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ORR, a ringside view of chaos

Rasheed Kappan (with inputs by Jagadish Angadi) Nov 5 2017, 1:14 IST
ring road

ring road

Once touted as the ultimate answer to Bengaluru's traffic woes, the 60-km Outer Ring Road donned the freeway tag with pride. But that was between 1996 and 2002, when it opened up in sections. Today, when the city has far outgrown its confines, the Ring Road is a telling picture of peak-hour chaos in dire need of repair and maintenance.

This rush is palpable right through the day at the junction where the ORR crosses the Old Madras Road right under the K R Puram cable-stayed bridge. The bridge, by design, is so poor that it lets traffic pass under it at just one overcrowded spot: Where luggage-holding passengers from the K R Puram railway station spill out in hundreds, triggering unimaginable chaos.

K R Puram chaos

Vehicles speeding down the ORR piles up right before this junction, before crawling out towards Marathahalli, Bellandur and beyond. Private and BMTC buses that pick up and drop commuters right at the bridge entrance only add to the mess. A bus bay, built a few hundred feet ahead of the bridge is rarely used.

Getting caught in the peak-hour rush on the ORR beyond K R Puram is the ultimate nightmare for commuters heading home from office. If the commute upto Marathahalli is relatively smooth, the pile-up starts from Kadubeesanahalli, the hub of tech parks housing several IT firms. Traffic spills over onto the badly maintainted service roads, made worse by the recent rains.

Rush-hour trucks

But what makes it even more messy is the unregulated entry of heavy vehicles during peak hours. The slow movement of the massive trucks, particularly between K R Puram and Silk Board junction, takes a huge toll on the already shaky traffic management.

Shashidhara, a frequent commuter on this stretch blames the traffic police for not stopping these trucks at any point. The stretch passes through the jurisdiction of Mico Layout, Madiwala, HSR Layout and K R Puram traffic police.

According to a government notification, all goods vehicles beyond three-ton capacity should be banned from entering the city limits between 6 am and 10 pm. The only exceptions are vehicles linked to water supply, garbage, police, military and hearse vehicles.

ORRCA companies

This continuing mess has everyone hassled. But the Outer Ring Road Companies Association (ORRCA) wants to find a way out by partnering with the government. Recently, the association representatives met Mahindra Jain, Additional Chief Secretary, Urban Development Department, and emphasised the need to explore long-term solutions.

Explains the representative, "ORR is one of the fastest growing IT corridors in the world. Today it has a current commercial office capacity of 60 mm square feet which is expected to grow to 85 mm square feet by 2020 equivalent to approximately 800-850 thousand employees."

Based on such projections, ORRCA highlighted the importance of short and long-term planning to improve infrastructure on ORR to make this growth sustainable.

Short-term measures

But the traffic police, often at the receiving end of commuters' ire, feel short-term steps should be taken up on a war-footing. "The biggest problem with the city's road road is flawed design," points out R Hithendra, Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic.

For instance, there are no bus shelters on any of the service road stretches of ORR. Buses halt on the main road for passengers to board and alight, triggering congestion. Besides, in many areas, service roads are not properly developed at all, Hithendra adds.

Median breaks

Multiplicity of median breaks add to the chaos. There are as many as 28 openings linking the service road and main road on the ORR stretch between K R Puram and Silk Board junction. Vehicles taking U turns and entering the main road raises big problems for smooth flow of traffic.

In some ORR stretches, the drainage is either above the road or below the road. The ongoing Metro rail construction work has also affected vehicular movement.

Design issues also plague other ORR stretches. For instance, the ORR's width between Nayandahalli and Bannerghatta road junction is grossly inadequate considering the high volume of traffic.

The traffic police topbrass agree that the movement of heavy good vehicles partly contributes to the congestion. Explains Hithendra, "We have banned entry of heavy goods vehicles into the city between 7 am and 11 am and from 5 pm to 9 pm. We can ban the entry, but not the movement of these vehicles."

Split lanes on Hebbal flyover are also cited as another contributing factor for the increased congestion on ORR. The police say these design issues should be tackled first, using funds earmarked for beautification of flyovers and underpasses.

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