Mumbai Goa highway owes killer tag to delay in expansion
work on widening the highway is unlikely to start before 2015
May 30, 2013
Source : The Times of India


MUMBAI: Four head-on collisions this week have killed eight people and injured 14 on the narrow Mumbai-Goa stretch of the NH-17, but work on widening the highway is unlikely to start before 2015.


While land acquisition procedures are underway and environmental clearances are awaited, sources said the project will take three to four years to complete as it involves digging tunnels through ghats, widening 16 narrow bridges, eliminating 11 hair-pin bends, creating bypasses and flyovers for major towns besides construction of service roads and vehicular and pedestrian underpasses. For now, the authorities have adopted temporary measures like installing speedbreakers, rumblers, cat-eyes, reflectors, signages and repairing some mishap-prone stretches.


Tuesday's mishaps on the highway could have been averted had the road been wider with dividers in between. The entire 475 km road, except for 20 km towards Goa, is a narrow two-lane. With nearly 2,000 casualties in the last six years, the state's most killer highway is being increasingly avoided by several motorists, who prefer the longer Mumbai-Pune-Kolhapur route instead. The 60 km diversion, many admitted, was to avoid risk of a head-on collision or plunging into the valley.


Vehicular traffic to Goa and the far southern Konkan is increasingly taking the Pune expressway and then the Pune-B anglore highway to reach Goa. "Though this route via Satara and Kolhapur and Sawantwadi is longer and means an extra one-hour drive, I don't mind as it is a safer route," said Hakim Lakdawalla, a regular commuter.


In March this year, 37 people died after their bus fell into the river when it failed to negotiate the narrow bridge. "Had the bridge been redone with crash barriers, the scene could have been different," said a consultant on highway projects in the state. "The creation of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway reduced head-on collisions rampant on the old Pune highway. But blood has continued to flow on the Goa highway as the old narrow road can't cope with the ever-increasing traffic," said a government official who did not want to be quoted.


As an immediate measure, transport expert Ashok Datar said the government should identify the risky stretches and put up make-shift dividers to prevent head-on collisions. He added that overtaking at night was dangerous and there should be stringent punishment for not maintaining front and rear lights. "I think overtaking should be strictly monitored on the highway and if possible, restricted, to avoid such fatal head-on collisions," said transport analyst Jagdeep Desai.

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