KOCHI: Calls for widening the Marthanda Varma bridge, along Aluva bypass on NH 544, are getting shriller with worsening traffic congestion, especially during peak hours, leaving commuters increasingly frustrated.
Merely crossing the bridge, constructed in 1940, now takes motorists more than half an hour. The situation is further exacerbated during weekends and prior to holidays.
The National Highways Authority of India has turned a blind eye despite traffic volume on the stretch far exceeding capacity. “We lose nearly an hour every day crossing the bridge. On a stretch with ample width, the bridge acts like a bottleneck. This usually results in long traffic jams,” says Durai Swami, a bus driver.
The market and bus stand located near the bridge add to the gridlock at the nearby bypass junction.
“The NH has two lanes, and the byroad has two lanes. Both end up at the narrow Marthanda Varma bridge while proceeding towards Angamaly. The situation is similar when proceeding towards Edappally, as the bridge is not capable of handling the traffic,” said Chandran Nambiar, a resident of Thottakkattukara.People living on the southern side say they are yet to benefit from the metro service due to the narrow bridge.
“Commuting to the city has become easier with the commissioning of Kochi Metro. But for people living on the southern side, the benefit is minimal, as they have to cross the bridge. Even auto-rickshaw drivers are reluctant to drop off passengers at the Metro station due to the traffic congestion,” said Sanjay, a resident of Aluva.
“We submitted a detailed proposal to former Vice President Venkaiah Naidu during his visit to Kochi, calling for the immediate widening of both bridges. Otherwise, traffic congestion along the stretch will persist. It is the gateway to Kochi city. The government should take steps to decongest the stretch,” said Aluva MLA Anwar Sadath.
Meanwhile, a source with NHAI said the authority is delaying the widening citing the new Kundannoor-Angamaly greenfield highway. “NHAI should take immediate measures to construct two bridges or flyovers across the river. How will a proposed Kundannoor-Angamaly highway decongest Aluva bypass? Widening of the bridge is the only solution,” the MLA added.