Twenty two-year-old Sonal Singh, pursuing her clinical psychology in a Mumbai-based college, leaves her home in Ghodbunder at 8.50am only to reach Thane railway station after an hour. Singh has the same nightmare while returning, leaving college at 4.30pm to reach home at 7.30pm, courtesy of traffic and potholes along the Ghodbunder Road. Singh spends over six to seven hours travelling, missing out on regular studies.
The story is more or less the same for every resident staying along Ghodbunder Road in Thane or commuting along this 25km stretch. On Wednesday, from the crack of dawn, the entire stretch from Fountain Hotel in Mira Road up to Kapurbawdi in Thane was jammed on both sides. For the usual 40–45 minutes commute, motorists spent two to three hours on Ghodbunder Road. Office goers, school buses and college goers were all stuck. A few others were late for classes while the rest were worried about missing important office meetings. The situation has been the same through the week.
Singh said, “The traffic is bad and not only did I reach the station after an hour but also the share auto rickshaws hiked the fares due to the prevailing traffic situation. Instead of the usual ₹40, I had to shell out ₹60. There was a major block at Majiwada and Kapurbawdi junctions. I leave the house at around 8.30am and return at around 7.30pm. I can dedicate my time to study only during the weekends.”
The entire Ghodbunder stretch is riddled with potholes, most of them were filled just before Ganeshotsav. However, most of them resurfaced due to the heavy downpour over the last few days. The road is a major highway connecting Thane and Mumbai via the Eastern and Western Express Highways. It also leads to Gujarat, thus sees a lot of traffic, especially those of heavy vehicles.
A traffic officer said, “The stretch of road ahead of Thane is bad, especially along the Versova Bridge. On Wednesday, there was no accident or breakdown. However, during the entire day, the traffic was congested. We do not allow heavy vehicles during peak hours. However, most of the vehicles had entered the city at night and were stuck during the day and could not leave before the peak hours. We had asked the concerned authorities several times to repair the potholes. However, the roads continue to be bad leading to the slow moving of vehicles.”
Datta Kamble, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic), said, “There are several bad patches along this stretch leading to traffic jam along the Ghodbunder Road. We are working on ways to ease this congestion.”
While the authorities fill the potholes temporarily, no permanent measures are taken to resolve the traffic issue along the stretch.
Santosh Singh, a resident of Waghbil who was one of the residents who had spearheaded a campaign against potholes four years ago, said that the authorities had assured to stop heavy vehicle movement in the city. However, this is not followed, thus resulting in traffic jams.
“The authorities are seen fixing the potholes on the flyover. However, they reappear within a day, paving the way for a bumpy ride. Moreover, heavy vehicles use the stretch during the peak hours and any breakdown or accident further adds to our woes. We were assured that the heavy vehicles would enter the city only after 10am, which is not followed.”
Authorities continue to play blame game
The Ghodbunder Road was constructed in the 1990s keeping in mind the future real estate development in the area, which is also known as the new Thane. The road, however, is transferred to different authorities every few years for maintenance and each authority keeps on passing the buck to the other.
Sharad Rajbhoj, chief engineer, Konkan Division of PWD, said, “The Ghodbunder Road was developed by Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) and came to us for maintenance merely six months ago. There are several reasons for the potholes here. One is the ongoing work of Wadala-Kasarvadavali Metro line 4 project. A complete lane of the road is occupied by the Metro authorities and they are responsible to maintain the road damaged due to the work. This maintenance is not done. Moreover, while the middle of the road is concretised, the last lane of the road is bitumen on either side. Thus, owing to huge traffic density, especially that of the heavy vehicles, the surface is damaged easily.”
He added that there was also a lot of rutting, especially in the Ghats, due to the friction of wheels of heavy vehicles, which the PWD has repaired temporarily.
Rajbhoj said, “The drainage system of the road also has a lot of problems. We had fitted a cross drainage structure at two spots along the stretch. However, we plan to undertake major work on the road after the monsoon. The drainage work needs to be undertaken for better storm water drain. Moreover, we will also excavate the damaged surface and strengthen it again.”
Manoj Saunik, Additional Chief Secretary, PWD, said, “The work of filling the potholes is being done round the clock by three mobile units. We take regular updates from the concerned officials on the status of road repairs.”
The Metro authorities, on the other hand, claimed that they do maintain their stretch. SVR Srinivas, Commissioner, Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA), said, “It is true that a part of this stretch is supposed to be maintained by MMRDA due to the ongoing Metro project. Wherever the part belongs to us, the maintenance work is done. However, the entire stretch belongs to PWD. I will anyway check the status of our stretch.”
Pramod Nimbalkar, retired executive engineer with Thane Municipal Corporation, claimed that lack of timely repair and resurfacing is one of the major reasons for potholes.
“All repair and resurfacing works should have been completed by May 15 so as to attain strength and stability. Many a time, the agencies are not finalised in time. Provision for adequate funds is always an issue. The service life of every road has to be assessed for periodic maintenance, especially before monsoon. Service trenches dug during the fair season have to be technically filled before the onset of monsoon. Drainage facility of every road has to be checked and maintained for optimum performance during monsoon. Water stagnation and asphalt never goes along and potholes are created. Detailed SOP for periodic maintenance has to be streamlined and reviewed at higher officer’s level. Coordination between various road authorities is missing for pre-monsoon maintenance, which can be avoided by setting up a steering committee of all the agencies.”
He added that a bye pass to the city is essential like the Creek Road parallel to Ghodbunder Road to decongest the city traffic.
Neelu Lamba, principal of Hiranandani Foundation School, had to leave her car ahead of the Manpada Flyover in Thane and do a 3km-walk through the flyover to reach her school as the entire stretch was jam packed with traffic on Wednesday.
“I was travelling from Nerul to the school. Due to the traffic jam, my car was stuck too. I was stuck in the traffic for 40 minutes until I decided to walk. I decided to drop the car ahead of the flyover and walk to the school as I was getting late. My driver reached after one hour,” said Lamba.
Ammey Kocharekar, 43, who left his home in Thane for Mira Road, had to cancel his travel and return home after he was stuck in the traffic for around two hours.
“I left Thane at 7.30am and even at 9am, I had not moved out of Thane. Usually, without traffic, one can reach Mira Road in 35 minutes. I decided to cancel my work appointment and returned home and my entire day was wasted. I had urgent work to finish there, which I had to cancel. At least there should be some system to inform us about the traffic situation in the city in advance so that we can plan accordingly,” said Kocharekar, founder and CEO of Proforce.
“If only the movement of the heavy vehicles are limited strictly to only 10pm to 5am, half of the traffic problems will be solved,” he added.
Manoj Pavashe, 52, president of Vidyarthi Vahatuk Sanghatana, Thane, who wanted to go to Borivali for personal work, took four hours to reach. On a regular day without much traffic, it would take only an hour.
“Since there was a heavy traffic jam, I decided to go by auto rickshaw. It took four hours to reach Borivali. The traffic movement was very slow and most vehicles were stuck for hours,” said Pavashe.