Peripheral decongestion

Peripheral decongestion

PRR Road

Bypassing the hyper-congested city roads, the speeding trucks and cars on NICE Road apply their brakes in a hurry, just ahead of Madanayakanahalli. The access-controlled tollway ends there, forcing every motor behemoth to get onto Tumakuru Road, dramatically slowing down traffic on that already clogged arterial road. In the distance, the Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) hovers hazily, just like it did 16 years ago!

Now stuck deep in a seemingly unassailable funds crunch, the PRR is what you call, a quintessential ‘non-starter.’ Land compensation rates going through the roof, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) is frantic in its search for a way out. Can Bengaluru, its roads packed with over 73 lakh vehicles, afford another truck-triggered jam.

Escalated cost

Building the 65-km PRR from scratch is estimated to cost a mammoth Rs 11,950 crore by today’s estimates. In the last 11 years alone, the initial cost has quadrupled. Any more delay and the cost escalation could get exponential. This is precisely why BDA has settled to execute the grand project in phases.

The first phase: An 18-km stretch from the NICE Road junction on Tumakuru Road towards Ballari Road leading to the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA). Today, the big trucks would have to get on to Tumakuru Road, cross the busy Peenya and Dasarahalli areas, turn left to Outer Ring Road at Yeshwanthpura before turning left again at Hebbal. But for this route, they would have to wait until 11 pm when the day traffic ebbs.

Bypass benefits

The PRR will complete the half-circle made up by the NICE Road, at a reduced toll, hopes truck driver Anandam, whose Electronic City to Nelamangala drive takes just an hour by the tollway. “Imagine going through the city traffic. It will take more than 5-6 hours. If there is a road like PRR, the trip to Hoskote, for instance, will be a lot easier and faster,” he explains. 

The Outer Ring Road (ORR) bears the brunt of this influx of long-distance trucks. On paper, truck traffic is allowed only after 11 pm. But as commuters repeatedly complain on social media with tell-tale pictures, heavy vehicle movement even during peak hours is a daily reality. A DH team that tracked the traffic from atop the Kadubeeasanahalli skywalk could spot many such behemoths worsen the traffic mess.

Decongesting ORR

This is a clear sign of the crying need for a PRR. “There is not much traffic in Jayanagar, Banashankari and other Western Bengaluru areas. But congestion surges on the ORR stretch from Hebbal, K R Puram to Silk Board Junction side as there is no alternative road such as the PRR,” notes M A Saleem, Additional Director General of Police and Commissioner for Traffic & Road Safety.

Single phase or multiple phases, the PRR poses a huge financial challenge to the BDA. Land acquisition alone, 1,810 acres and 18.5 guntas to be precise, will cost about Rs 8,100 crore. BDA’s numerous meetings with investors have failed to generate any interest. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is ready to fund only the construction cost.

Diesel cess

To get around this challenge, BDA has proposed three taxes: A 20 paise cess on every litre of diesel sold in the city, a PRR tax on buildings in the BBMP limits and an IT and BT cess from industries for a five-year period. This proposal is pending before the state government.

The Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) formed to execute the PRR project estimates in its ‘Strategy for Project Financing’ report that the tax route will net Rs. 35 crore per annum through the diesel cess. This works out to Rs. 175 crore over a five-year period.

But this entire financial issue could be better addressed if an ‘area development’ and not ‘strip development’ approach is adopted. “Develop land up to one kilometre on either side of the PRR. Plan cross roads and road networks on either side. Ensure that the adjoining area develops,” explains civic evangelist and urban planning expert, V Ravichander.

Area development

Planned this way, he says, the value of the land will increase significantly. “In area development, you give back only half an acre for every acre acquired. But that ‘developed’ half-acre will be worth much more than the one acre. This might be tough as all land owners have to be taken aboard. But Ahmedabad has done this. You need to develop confidence.”

This should be the way to go, agrees Saleem. “If the road surface is 100m, acquire 200m and develop that land. Give back 50% to the land loser. Otherwise, land acquisition becomes extremely high,” he notes.

Whatever the cost, the city’s explosive growth does not give the government any other road option but build the PRR that helps heavy vehicles bypass the inner city roads. Beyond rail, the PRR still remains a viable link that could seamlessly connect the major IT hubs, KIA, the emerging aerospace tech parks and new residential areas in Hoskote, Varthur and beyond.