Narrow approach to widening a road

Narrow approach to widening a road

Palike says it is inevitable, but residents see it as a hare-brained idea without exploring alternatives and at the cost of precious trees

Narrow approach to widening a road

Should the picturesque, tree-lined Sankey Road be widened ? Now, it is a hugely contentious issue, one that threatens to erode the very essence of Malleswaram. Trees are to be chopped down by the hundreds, landmark buildings are to be razed, the geography of the place will have to be changed... All for a smoother flow of traffic, consensus for which is definitely nowhere on the horizon.

The debate on widening Sankey Road has been raging for over two years now. While residents are against the slaughter of the old trees they and their elders have grown up with, the civic authorities say they have no choice but to hack the trees. The stand-off continues.

The Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) had included the road-widening project in its Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) 2015. Local MLA Dr Ashwath Narayan has been allegedly ‘pushing’ for expediting the project. But opposing their own elected public representative are the local Resident Welfare Association (RWA) and the greens. They want to put an end to what they call a ‘foolhardy’ method to ease the traffic movement on this stretch.

After a sustained protest - twice in the last 24 months - the project was put on hold. Technical problems in constructing a signal-free corridor con­n­ecting Yeshw­anthpur with Central Business District (CBD) and the Airport, was another contributing factor to this decision.

Yet, despite this and the BBMP Commissioner reportedly seeking a review of the project, Ashwath Narayan has been lobbying for the completion of the signal-free corridor by widening the Sankey Tank Road.

“It appears that there is a lot of pressure from the local MLA to start the road-widening project at the earliest, even as the Commissioner is reviewing the viability of an underpass at Bhashyam Circle to facilitate the signal-free corridor,” says a Palike source. But Ashwath Narayan denies that he is lobbying for the project. “There is no pressure from me or my office,” he told Deccan Herald. He, however, argues that considering the burgeoning population in Malleswaram, there is an urgent need to tackle the commuting problems which may multiply in the near future.

Malleswaram has indeed witnessed mushrooming of residential complexes and commercial spaces. The most noteworthy of them has been the Brigade Gateway project, which is estimated to hold more than 10,000 people at any given time. Citing this as the prime reason for the road-widening project, Ashwath Narayan claims that widening Sankey Road and making it signal-free is the only viable option.

For BBMP, the project is definitely a “hot potato”, one which needs to be dealt with extreme caution. “The Palike Commissioner seems to have shied away from the controversial topic for a reason. He wishes to take up the matter only after a concrete plan is evolved,” reveals a Palike official. It is learnt that a Detailed Project Report (DPR) has been prepared and will require approval of the BBMP Commissioner and ratification by the Palike council before it is implemented. Commissioner Siddaiah, it is learnt, has called for the feasibility of the project to be revie­wed due to technical concerns.

With two underpasses, the already existing Cauvery Junction underpass and the proposed underpass at Bhashyam Circle at close proximity to the Sankey lake, the BBMP now fears it may increase the water seepage and create havoc with commuter movement. According to Palike sources, Siddaiah has asked for the project details from the department concerned for a fresh assessment.

Residents propose alternatives

While that is the situation at the decision-making level, local residents are convinced that widening the road is no alternative to accommodate the anticipated traffic multiplication. Explains Malleswaram Swabhimana Initiative (MSI) member, Dr Meenakshi Bharath: “The presence of heavy traffic on Sankey Bund road can be attributed to the delay in completion of the CNR Rao Road underpass, as there is a lot of traffic diverted towards Malleswaram. If that is completed, half the commuters will stop using the bund road.”
Justifying their opposition to the project, MSI has proposed an alternative traffic management system to regulate movement, based on the existing infrastructure. 

Although it is yet to reach the BBMP Commissioner and the local MLA, a presen­tation on this system prepared by MSI states: “The current width of the Sankey Tank bund road is 12.7 metres at its narrowest point, including the sidewalk space. This should allow for a four-lane road with 3.2 m-wide lanes. The BBMP can widen this stretch to 13 metres, a minimum requirement for the two lane road by demolishing the sidewalk. We can utilise the joggers track along the Sankey Tank for pedestrians and cyclists for moving along the bund road and widen the stretch to its maximum point.” Another alternative that the RWA has suggested is to install a steel platform running along the Sankey Tank road on the lake side, for the pedestrians’ use.

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