CHENNAI:In February, the height of the concrete medians on the Poonamallee High Road stretch along Arumbakkam was increased. Being one of the most accident-prone zones in the city, the highway sees movement of heavy trucks everyday toward places like Chennai Port and Sriperumbudur. Around the same time, the Tamil Nadu Highways Department also increased the height of the medians on Anna Salai to regulate accidents caused due to high beams from vehicles coming from the opposite direction.
“The medians blocked the beams from the trucks that made it impossible to see the vehicle in front, especially while riding a two-wheeler. I used to be very nervous while riding on this stretch before,” says Anand, a 22-year-old resident of Madhavaram, who takes the Poonamallee High Road often.
But officials from the Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) say that this might not deter accidents and might instead, lead to more deaths. “Barriers and highways like these should not be built within cities. In the absence of sensible street-level crossing options, pedestrians who try to jump them are hit by vehicles coming at high speed and killed,” says an official from ITDP.
Gitakrishnan Ramadurai, professor at Indian Institue of Technology and member of the Center for Excellence in Urban Transport, says that medians are needed to block high beams, but other options must be made for footpath commuters. “The signals must be synchronised and breaks must be made every 250 meters along the medians for crossing. In case of overhead bridges, they must be provided with escalators for quick transit, besides lifts for handicapped people,” he says, citing the Chrompet foot-overbridge (FOB) as a model.
Officials from ITDP, on the other hand, point out the underlying hazard in them. “Number of road deaths in Chennai, which are already highest in the country, will increase. These medians also flout the Corporation of Chennai’s Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) policy that the city council adopted in 2014. The medians that used to be there, with plants in the middle, were a much better option,” they add. Until the number of reported accidents along the highway is recorded for the next year, this remains to be disputed.