Highway caught up in a swarm of issues
Around 100 travellers dead and 350 injured in accidents on a 119-km expressway in just over four months reads like a record.
Around 100 travellers dead and 350 injured in accidents on a 119-km expressway in just over four months reads like a record. The authorities have taken note of this worrying trend. They are looking into the safety aspects of the Bengaluru-Mysuru Expressway, which has seen 79 major and 226 minor accidents since it opened to traffic in March. The 6-10 lane access-controlled highway, built for `8,480 crores by the National Highways Authority of India, has reduced travel time between the two cities from over three hours to 75 minutes—a boon for many.
Yet, the expressway had been the subject of much conjecture and controversy. With Assembly elections in mind, PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the highway with much fanfare in mid-March, even before it was complete. Just a week later, a spell of heavy showers left it flooded. Road users blamed faulty engineering for the waterlogging, which even now remains a factor leading to accidents. Dacoities were also reported along dark and lonely stretches of the e-way. The project has also not been sensitive to the local geography, separating farmers from their fields, and it is not rare to see villagers dart across the e-way, risking lives rather than trekking 4 km through the bypass. The alignment has also deprived iconic eateries and traditional Channapatna toy stores of good business, forcing travellers to take long detours for a snack or miss out on the quintessential ethos of the route.
A recent meeting between a state government minister, NHAI and PWD officials listed the faults as unscientific construction of bypasses and connecting roads, poor engineering, lack of streetlights, road signage and skywalks, and a low road median. Reckless, unskilled drivers only add to the dangers. The Ramanagara and Bidadi district administrations and police departments have studied the reasons behind the accidents and given some suggestions, including installing cameras, streetlights, speed breakers and, more importantly, clearing stagnant water. An expert committee will now analyse traffic movement and infrastructure to determine what ails this project.
The project has been a political bone of contention, with the BJP and Congress sparring over the toll fee—`135 for one-way and `205 for a two-way journey—and who it should be named after. There was also a clash over which party could take credit for the e-way. Yet, after several issues began plaguing the project, the claimants have fallen silent. Clearly, failure is an orphan.