Brace for a bumpier ride on the Eastern and Western Express Highways this monsoon

Brace for a bumpier ride on the Eastern and Western Express Highways this monsoon
Representational Image. Courtesy: Umesh Luthria‏

Motorists travelling via the Western and Eastern Express Highways should brace for a bumpier ride this monsoon as the Supreme Court ruling on highway bars has led to a last minute change in responsibility and left little time for pothole repairs.

Last month, the Maharashtra Government denotified many highways – including the WEH and EEH – to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling that banned the sale of alcohol within 500 metres of state and national highways.

While the government’s decision was aimed at protecting the livelihood those affected by the ruling, it inadvertently shifted the road maintenance responsibility from Public Works Department (PWD) to Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA).

To make things worse, MMRDA was only assigned the responsibility of carrying out the pre-monsoon repair work on the highways earlier this month, barely four weeks before monsoon was expected to hit the city.

Due to the limited time, MMRDA officials reportedly used the bid documents prepared by the PWD to float tenders earlier this month. However, it has not yet received bids from contractors for a number of patches on the WEH.

Moreover, even if the contractors are finalized on time, there is little that can be done to ensure quality of repairs.

“We cannot use hot asphalt and hot-sprayed bitumen with stone chips. Though, we have not finalised the bids yet, cold-mix is the best available option given the time and season,” a senior MMRDA official told HT.

In the past, use of cold-mix technology has proved far from ideal as roads repaired using the method only offered a temporary respite from potholes. As a result, even recently repaired potholes could resurface before the monsoon is over.

In any case, MMRDA will have to complete the maintenance and desilting work on the highways in less than a fortnight to ensure they are not spoilt by rainfall.

Incidentally, monsoon is expected to hit Mumbai by the first of June this year, a week before the usual date.

Lakhs of motorists use the WEH (connecting Bandra-Dahisar) and EEH (connecting Sion-Thane) to commute everyday, making them one of the busiest roads in the city. Despite that, they are riddled with potholes every monsoon.

The traffic situation on WEH is especially dire this year due to the ongoing Metro construction work.

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