Twin trouble! NHAI under fire for ignoring Marthanda Varma bridge in Aluva

Commuters were forced to wait for nearly an hour the day before Eid just to cross the bridge
Traffic bottleneck witnessed at Aluva bypass junction | Anilkumar T
Traffic bottleneck witnessed at Aluva bypass junction | Anilkumar T

KOCHI : The protracted delay in widening the 84-year-old Marthanda Varma bridge in Aluva, along NH544, is proving to be a major stumbling block in solving the worsening gridlock on the stretch. It seems the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is treating the twin bridge as a ‘historical monument’ due to its association with the erstwhile Kochi kingdom.

Traffic congestion is worsening, say motorists. Commuters were forced to wait for nearly an hour the day before Eid just to cross the bridge.

Chandran Nambiar, a resident of Thottakkattukara, said the stretch has become a nightmare for commuters. “We have seen several development projects come up in Kochi. Even the widening of national highways is progressing at speed across the state. But, the narrow, anachronistic Marthanda Varma bridge stands out as a sore thumb. NHAI is refusing to give due consideration to a key gateway to Kochi,” said Chandran.

“Though several people approach us to cross the bridge, the congestion is forcing us to deny them rides. The government should take steps to widen the current bridge or construct a new bridge. Otherwise, the other infrastructure projects would be of no use,” a local auto-rickshaw said, on condition of anonymity.

Local MLA Anwar Sadath had submitted a detailed proposal to Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari in 2023 for widening of the bridge.

“It seems NHAI is not considering the proposal because of the proposed Kundannoor-Angamaly greenfield highway. Their thinking might be that with the commissioning of the new project, traffic along the Marthanda Varma bridge would gradually decline. But that will not be the case, as commuters who leave Kochi will be forced to take this route. We will put pressure to widen the bridge after the election,” Sadath said.

Meanwhile, experts say that more than traffic congestion, it’s the lives of road users that’s on the line. “Mid-20th century construction can’t handle 21st-century tonnage.A future bridge will boast enhanced load-bearing capabilities, ensuring safe passage for generations. We need to honour the past by building a future-proof legacy,” said Nebu Abraham, a construction management expert.

He said the bridge is outdated and can’t handle future traffic. “We need to tear it down and build a new, stronger one that will last for generations. This forward-thinking project will ensure safe and efficient travel for years to come, honouring the past while building for the future,” he added.

Though TNIE tried to contact NHAI officials, they were unavailable to comment.

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