Projects sans foresight cause never-ending bottlenecks

Representative image. (DH photo)

While every government tinkers with Bengaluru’s roads experimenting with infrastructure, commoners who use the roads don’t see any long-term vision or plan behind the projects that come up almost overnight.

On June 8, 2017, the Karnataka Cabinet passed an order that would add more chaos to the already-chaotic Shivananda Circle at the heart of the city: a 326 metres-long “steel” bridge over Shivananda Circle to be built at a cost of Rs 19.85 crore excluding the cost of land acquisition. Protests by the locals and affected parties didn’t matter, and the work began.

After two years, the project is now in limbo, with the elevated section of the flyover up with no slopes on both sides. As per the Supreme Court’s instruction to comply with the Indian Road Congress (IRC) guidelines, the gradient of both ramps was revised, taking the length of the project to 660 metres, and cost escalated substantially.

Sonal Kulkarni, a resident of Kumara Park and joint secretary of Srikanthan Layout Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA), sees the possibility of heavily loaded trucks getting stuck under the flyover, and the project only increasing bottlenecks with no real use.

The roads adjacent to the project on either side are narrow, and barely enough for one vehicle to pass through. They are barricaded. The ramps haven’t been built for the flyover on both sides.

If this gets completed, the buses that go towards Malleswaram will have to move at grade level, which demands extra space for a bus stop and extra road space, which in turn will require land acquisition. All these will not solve the bottleneck beneath the railway underbridge, unless it is redesigned.

The problem is not limited to Shivananda Circle project. “The saddest part is where they design a flyover to take up 80 % of the load and reduce space for the remaining 20 % which is expected to take a different route from below the flyover. Then, it turns out the 20 % is actually 60 % and you have a congestion problem,” says Vaidyanathan, a Bengaluru-based IT professional who has been a keen observer of the city’s road infrastructure.

“They target a specific traffic load, but traffic keeps increasing. And then at some point it will no longer serve its purpose... it in fact starts impeding traffic movement,” he adds. He explains the much-debated concept of induced demand which says that the added infrastructure attracting more traffic to use it up, “which makes the concept of flyovers or underpasses moot”.

Mukund Setlur, a management professional, has a different perspective. “The government is not able to address the problem of mass transport. These things are expected in a growing city. Some solutions work, some don’t. But unlike Europe that concentrated on mass transport, we are trying to help organic transport. As long as this short term solution is being played on, it will help government contractors and road builders, but won’t solve the issue,” he says.

Koramangala conundrum

Koramangala has been a classic example of an area that suffered constantly due to short term solutions coming up overnight while long-term projects in the masterplan remained unimplemented. Muralidhar Rao, a citizen activist from Koramangala, recalls many of the projects in vivid details. 

Among them is a road marked in the Revised Master Plan (RMP) 2005 to be passed through a defence land, to connect the Inner Ring Road to Sarjapur Road in Agara, which hasn’t moved forward an inch despite negotiations between the state and the Ministry of Defence.

Meanwhile, the BDA planned a signal-free corridor between St Johns Hospital and Agara, by building many grade separators. The roads were even dug up. The citizen activists who realised the futility of the idea fought against it and managed to get it cancelled.

After this came the Ejipura-Kendriya Sevasadan flyover project. It began amid support from resident welfare associations in Koramangala. 

However, when the state government changed after the elections, the situation changed. The project got stuck in the issues of TDRs and non-payment. “Nobody knows what the issue is. The contractor is saying the government owes a due of Rs 24 crores, and the project came to a standstill,” explains Nitin Seshadri, a resident of Koramangala.

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