FAST LANE

India Today - - STATES -

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.

MANDAR DEODHAR

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