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Mumbai gets its second ‘freeway’

Friday, July 18, 2014
By Philip Varghese

Zip down a 10-lane highway, cut travel time by over 30 minutes

The state public works department (PWD) has finally finished widening of the Sion-Panvel highway which will offer seamless travel to commuters driving down to Mumbai from Pune and Navi Mumbai as Mumbai’s infrastructural scenario has changed forever with the (SPTP) Sion-Panvel Tollways Project.

The state highway, which is also known as a 'freeway' is the longest corridor of this nature sprawling over 23.09 km of length. The image of Mumbai has always been associated with traffic woes but this state highway is set to transform that perception forever, if the government is to be believed. The project is built with 10 lanes of carriageway with footpaths on either side of the road from Kalamboli Junction to BARC Junction, providing six lanes of signal-free travel and four lanes with signals on the entire 23-km stretch. This corridor saves total travel time by more than 30 minutes for a single-way journey, providing an excellent commuting and driving experience. The highway which connects Mumbai to cities such as Pune and some southern states is used by 1.6 lakh vehicles every day.

According to Gopal Gupta, Communications Director of Sion Panvel Tollways Pvt Ltd said, “The finest project of this nature, the SPTP comes packed with superlative amenities and facilities for the common man. Flyovers are provided at five locations on the expressway of which there are three new ones at Kamothe. The other two are duplication of the existing flyovers at Taloja and CMLR. The project is equipped with 13 pedestrian underpasses and 6 foot-over bridges to augment the convenience and safety of citizens. To improve the facility of drivers, two new vehicular underpasses of 5+5 lanes with illumination have been provided at Shirvane and Vashigaon.”

He further added, “In addition, 44 bus bays with shelters have been constructed along the project corridor. The three bus bays at Vashi, Belapur and Kalamboli are for tourist or interstate buses and have been built with toilet facilities. A '9+9' lane toll plaza has been constructed along the corridor for collecting user fees in an efficient and speedy manner. For the Pune-bound traffic, the toll plaza is located at Kamothe and for the Mumbai-bound traffic it is situated at Kopragaon. The toll plaza will also provide commuters the option of monthly passes that will allow seamless and quick passage.

Gupta also stressed that the grand scale of construction has been complemented perfectly with requisite geometric improvements along the project corridor. For instance, the steep grade of the Devi Saddle portion, locally known as Belapur Khind, was improved by bringing down the level of the road by about  four meters. The portion was also widened to a 5+5 lane configuration from a 3+3 lane configuration. The newly-constructed Uran flyover connects this portion of the road, further reducing the stress on heavy container-laden trucks and trailers which often used to break down on the steep slope earlier.

The state highway is the latest addition to the infrastructural projects of Mumbai that have been gradually metamorphosing the face of the city. Some of the others include the Santacruz-Chembur Link Road, the Sahar Elevated Access Road and the Eastern Freeway. The six-lane Santacruz-Chembur Link Road (SCLR) consists of India's first double-decker flyover and is used by nearly 80,000 vehicles each day. Being a phenomenal project in its own right, the SCLR witnesses heavy traffic at peak hours, so much so that it often gets chock-a-block at entry and exit points restricting the movement of vehicles.

“Similarly, thanks to the elevated nature of the Sahar Access Road and the Eastern Freeway, both often experience traffic bottlenecks in case of any accidental occurrences or vehicle breakdowns. The Sion-Panvel Highway has been planned and constructed keeping the problems associated with preceding projects in mind. Therefore, the possibility of jams at vital points of entry and exit has been minimized. Also, the elevated parts of the Sion-Panvel project are divided by highways, which means that in case a vehicle breaks down, it will not result in held up traffic.  The expressway has been a subject of much investment in thought and execution with several touch points along the way providing breakdown assistance and first-aid in case of any emergency.

Such initiatives are a first in the country and will set a benchmark for all future road projects. The travel on this highway will be extremely easy and expeditious for commuters of Navi Mumbai, Sion and Panvel or those travelling to Pune over weekends. Further, the toll road will enable fuel cost savings equivalent to two and half times of the toll charges as it will facilitate smooth movement of the traffic, thereby minimising fuel consumption expenses of the commuters. It will also save on vehicle maintenance cost thanks to the superlative road quality,” Gupta added.

Motorists speak...
Some of the travelers who have already started using the highway share their experiences with elation. Ritika Marwhe, a media professional who works in Mumbai and travels back home to Pune every weekend said, “Although I used to love going back home on the weekends, the thought of the commute itself would tire me before I even started off. However, I used the new Sion-Panvel Tollways Project last week and I was pleasantly surprised as the travel time was cut by almost an hour. Not only was the drive fast and safe, it was also such a pleasurable experience. This highway has come as a boon for people like me.”

Satish Sane, an office goer, said, “My work requires me to travel daily from Sion to Panvel. The new highway has come as a life savior for me. I now reach Panvel in half an hour, while earlier it would easily take me an hour or more. The commute has become traffic and hassle free and I am, personally, overjoyed.”    

More beautification work in the next one year...

An official of the company said, “A lot of time and effort has also been devoted to the landscaping of the project including the beautification of space below the existing and newly-constructed flyovers. The entire aesthetic enhancement of the state highway has been divided into three categories: The Flyover Units, the Garden Units (pockets or patches of open spaces along the footpath on either side of the road) and the Median Plantation of trees and shrubs to create green avenues along the corridor. The landscape design involved participation of the local residents which has given it a futuristic aesthetic value. Moreover, additional roadside landscaping, median landscaping and beautification work will be carried out by the concessionaire over the next one year.

The Sion-Panvel Tollways Project has come as a real boon to commuters in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Pune. Not only is it the longest corridor of its nature, it also offers a fast and safe journey to the common man, considerably cutting travel time. The 10 lanes of which 6 are signal free and additional facilities like vehicular bypasses, pedestrian underpasses and foot-over bridges, make the state highway one of the most significant developments in the infrastructural landscape of the Maximum City.”

Cost of the project...

At a project cost of more than Rs.1,700 crore for the 17 years of concession period, the construction work of “the expressway has been completed in record time, well before the deadline. The project has been built on state-of-the-art design without displacing any inhabitants of the neighboring areas. Over 1,000 trees have been transplanted around the project, making it as environmentally sustainable as it is expedient,” Gupta said.

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