NEW ROAD, OLD JOURNEY
Those taking the old Mumbai-Pune highway well remember the nightmarish traffic jams. Passing through Bor Ghat en route from Mumbai to Pune, it had a rated capacity of 10,000 vehicles, but often had to deal with upward of 60,000. The 180-km journey took a minimum of five hours, because only 30 kilometres of the highway was broad enough to support four lanes. Vehicle breakdowns would cause kilometres-long traffic jams both ways. In 1990, the Maharashtra government appointed the Rail India Technical and Economic Services (RIGHTS) to study
the feasibility of constructing a new highway. In 1997, then state PWD minister Nitin Gadkari decided to implement the recommendations of the RIGHTS report and construct an expressway from Kon, near Panvel, to Dehu Road, near Pune, for an estimated Rs 1,400 crore. The contract was given to the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) after private companies demanded more than twice that amount—Rs 3,000 crore—for construction. “Opposition parties and the media laughed at me when I had said we’ll complete the project for less than the private sector estimate,” says Gadkari. The final cost of the 94-km-long expressway was Rs 1,600 crore. It was completed in three years.