Another flyover shortcut

Last Updated 28 January 2018, 10:07 IST

A massive, unprecedented public uproar had forced the government to shelve the controversial Ballari Road steel flyover project. If Bengalureans hoped for a course correction and a mobility policy change, here's a huge dampener: Another monster steel flyover of exactly the same nature is about to take shape on J C Road.

Billed as the perfect recipe for a quick transit from South to Central Bengaluru, the 2.91-km bidirectional structure is designed to connect Minerva Circle with Hudson Circle. Work is scheduled to begin within a month, but the usual questions remain unanswered: Was the public and all other stakeholders consulted? Does the traffic volumes justify the project? When flyovers across the City have failed to decongest, how will this be any different?

Work order soon

The project has already been approved by the Chief Minister Siddaramaiah at the recent Bengaluru Metropolitan Planning Committee (BMPC) meeting. The work order is expected to be issued once the state cabinet gives its go-ahead. Actual work could begin in a month's time, as the BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad put it.

But urban mobility experts wonder how flyovers will benefit public transport. BMTC buses are ruled out on these structures since it would be pointless to have bus stops overground. The only beneficiaries would be private, personal vehicle-owners. Is promoting this then the priority when the city roads are already trapped in chaos triggered by 65 lakh vehicles?

Corruption cloud

Palike insiders say the haste in getting the project off the ground is linked to the cancellation of the Ballari Road steel bridge project. Big money had exchanged hands. To make up for the loss and redistribute the amount, three more projects were quickly worked out. This included the Sivananda Circle and J C Road (Minerva to Hudson Circle) flyovers, reveals a well-informed source.

Invariably, all these flyover projects have come under the shadow of corruption. But even from a sustainability point of view, the proposed flyover has been questioned. Prof Ashish Verma, associate professor of transportation engineering at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Department of Civil Engineering calls it a very short-term solution to a complex traffic issue.

No containment policy

Flyovers, he explains, can work as a decongestion solution only if the government can formulate policies to reduce the population and limit the vehicular numbers. But this seems impossible. "Given the current trend of explosive vehicular growth, the additional road capacity created by the flyover will get filled up in a very short time," he says.

To decongest roads, mobility experts say, the solution is to build strategic, usable underpasses at crowded junctions. Flyovers that extend over a kilometer or more only end up shifting congestion from one junction to another. Almost every existing flyover is proof that the planners and designers have failed to consider the evacuation capability at the endpoint.
By design, vehicles ascending the flyover at high speed from Minerva Circle will have to descend at Hudson Circle. Do the traffic management and evacuation capacity of Hudson Circle match the incoming traffic from the steel flyover?

Skipping junctions

BBMP contends that the flyover will skip seven traffic signals: Minerva Junction, Bharat Talkies Junction, Town Hall Junction, LIC Office Junction, Halasuru Gate police station junction and Hudson Circle Junction.

Verma has a counter to this: The access-controlled, high-speed Airport Road too skips and flies over a lot more junctions en route to the Hebbal flyover. The entire traffic comes to a virtual standstill at the Hebbal bottleneck. "The vehicles on that road pay a heavy toll, move very fast and get stuck in that congestion."

The JC Road flyover too will meet the same fate, Verma warns. "Every time the government proposes a flyover, does it come out with a policy to contain the travel density? If there is no such plan, the whole purpose will be lost. How do you then justify the investment?"

Threat to heritage

Urban architects and heritage specialists draw attention to the structure's potential to destroy the aesthetics of the entire stretch. The design shows the steel bridge towering over the iconic Town Hall and other heritage structures, including the LIC building and Kempegowda statue. They cite the Revised Master Plan (RMP-2031) to stress on retaining the visual sanctity of the zone.

The Palike claims that the existing traffic volumes on the stretch justify a flyover. It cites the Indian Road Congress (IRC) guidelines to contend that flyovers are recommended on roads with over 10,000 passenger car units per hour.

But a critical question remains unanswered: What if the passenger car units exceed 20,000 per hour, a very real possibility considering the explosive vehicular growth? The more the road space, the more the cars. The hyper-congested existing flyovers across the city should be proof enough of a mobility solution gone horribly wrong.

(Published 27 January 2018, 19:36 IST)

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