As commuters complain about the steep toll charges, NHAI says the DPR for an elevated highway to ensure seamless movement of vehicles is in its final stages.
As the intersections remain pothole-ridden, the traffic along the Maduravoyal-Sriperumbudur stretch of the highway comes to a grinding halt at the signals and it takes nearly 10 to 15 minutes to cross them during peak hours. The congestion along the intersections continues even during non-peak hours.
If a motorist heading to Bengaluru or places en route like Vellore or Hosur takes the highway at Koyambedu, they would proceed to Maduravoyal in normal traffic. Once they crossed the Chennai Bypass at Maduravoyal, the vehicular movement will slow down as it approaches the Vanagaram intersection and again at Tiruverkadu junction. Vehicles pile up for nearly a kilometre on either side of the highway at the intersection of the Poonamallee-Patabiram High Road.
At Nazarathpet junction, the traffic congestion becomes heavy with vehicles from Outer Ring Road, Poonamallee Bypass and Trunk Road. “It is a daily ordeal for us to get stuck at Nazarathpet junction. It will take a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes to cross the junction in the peak hours,” said K Kumaran, a bus driver of a private company at Sriperumbudur SIPCOT. He said that the traffic snarls are getting worse over the years with more and more vehicles using the highway.
A traffic policeman at Nazarathpet attributed the peak hour traffic mainly to private buses transporting employees of the companies in the area and students of various institutions dotting the Sriperumbudur stretch of the highway. “More than 1,000 buses ply the road in the morning and evening in either direction to transport the workers and students, mostly at the same time. It leads to heavy traffic congestion,” the policeman said.
Tamil Nadu Lorry Owners’ Federation president R Sugumar blamed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) for the traffic pile-up on the highway. “NHAI had neither maintained the road nor widened it to accommodate the ever-increasing traffic. It is causing a huge problem for the motorists, particularly goods carriers getting stuck in the never-ending traffic,” he said.
Without decongesting the highways, the NHAI continued to steeply increase the toll charges, Sugumar said. “The 110-km stretch from Vanagaram-Sriperumbudur-Wallajah have two toll plazas. The NHAI started collected toll from 2004. In 2011, the toll charges were hiked by 63 per cent stating that the four-lane road would be made six-lane and then every year the toll was raised by 12 per cent. But the road widening never happened as the companies which got the contracts dropped out in the midway citing troubles over land acquisition,” he said, pointing out that the failure to widen the highway slowed the vehicle movement. “A vehicle from Ranipet should reach Chennai in one and a half hours but it takes anywhere between 2.5 to 3 hours. It only results in the vehicle owners spending more on the fuel,” he said.
A senior NHAI official said that in order to decongest the stretch from Maduravoyal to Nemili Toll Plaza at Sriperumbudur, the department is planning to construct an elevated highway. “The six-lane highway will start at Maduravoyal and end at Nazarathpet just before the Outer Ring Road and then the second stretch of the elevated road will begin beyond Outer Ring Road and end at Sriperumbudur. This will ensure seamless movement of vehicles,” the official said, adding that the detailed project report is being prepared for the project and it is in the final stages of completion. “Once it is finalised, the project will be taken up,” the official said, adding that the elevated road would not require any additional land acquisition.
Regarding the widening of the Sriperumbudur-Wallajah stretch, the official said that they have given a fresh contract to widen the highway to six-lane in two packages. “The work will commence in one month,” the official said.
Of the 326-km Chennai-Bengaluru Bypass Road (National Highway 48), the 61-km stretch between Sriperumbudur and Walajah Road has four lanes and the Koyambedu-Sriperumbudur Road and Walajah-Bengaluru Road have six lanes. The works began in 2014 to widen the road into six lanes from four lanes.