Herald: No mercy for midnight’s weary travellers

No mercy for midnight’s weary travellers

23 Jun 2019 04:52am IST
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23 Jun 2019 04:52am IST
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There’s going to be a peculiar problem for those who use the Panjim to Margao NH 66 highway at night or early in the morning. As it is the trip in the day is problematic, with bad roads, dust pollution and mini-diversions due to the construction of the new Zuari bridge. Now, with the latest diversion being enforced from June 24, Monday, the stretch from Cortalim junction to Verna will be closed at night and commuters have been asked to take the Chicalim- Dabolim road instead. SHOAIB SHAIKH, DHIRAJ HARMALKAR and Sagun Gawade take this new route to check out the various problems commuters will have to endure. With heavy rains and non functioning streetlights, they will now have to cover 22 kms instead of 3.6 kms. What would have taken 5 minutes, will now take more than 25 minutes!

he State government has decided to divert traffic moving towards Cortalim from Verna Titan junction to facilitate the flyover construction of new Zuari Bridge. 

However, questions are raised whether night commuting will be safe with little illumination and narrow NH 366 between Cortalim and Chicalim junctions. 

Sticking to its original proposal of diverting the traffic, PWD Chief Engineer for Highways, Roads and Bridges, Vijaykumar Verenkar issued a notification announcing the government’s decision. Interestingly, the same route when proposed in December 2018 as the alternate arrangement was opposed by the local residents, general public as well as politicians and elected representatives. 

The new route adds, 5x of 

distance, time and fuel 

With the decision to travel between 11 pm and 7 am from Monday night costs more than five times the actual distance.

NH 66 is the major national highway connecting the North Goa and the neighbouring districts from Maharashtra to South Goa and the neighbouring districts of South Goa and beyond. 

As such, the inconvenience expected is immense for those travelling across the North to the South border or vice versa during the night hours. 

While the actual distance between Cortalim and Verna Titan junctions is about 3.6 km, the new diverted route is 22 km long. The diverted route leads to Chicalim junction along NH 366 and then moving towards Dabolim Airport on the Chicalim – Airport road and proceeding towards Verna Titan junction on NH 566. 

While motorists will be forced to burn five times the fuel they would normally utilise for driving the small stretch of road, the major cause of concern is the traffic load that would be shifted on NH 366, which is two-way traffic.

NH 366 is bustling during the night with taxis plying to and fro the Dabolim Airport and the weekends being the busiest of them all. Apart from the taxis, heavy vehicles including trucks, trailers and container trucks are part of the traffic on the road.  Further, besides people who work in various industries, who travel at night to head home, there are also those who travel early in the morning, who will also be affected. 

Traffic to increase from 1,000 to 1,500 vehicles

As per sources at the airport, around 25 to 27 flights arrive and depart from the airport including the international and domestic ones, between 11 pm and 9 am. 

It is estimated that between 11 pm and 7 am an average 1,000 vehicles ply on the NH 366 between Chicalim and Cortalim junctions. 

With the traffic diversion, it is estimated that an average of 500 vehicles would ply between Cortalim and Verna Titan junction which will be an addition to the routes.

The bypass connecting Verna to Loutolim has not been completed as the bridge work between the two villages is still pending. The bypass was supposed to provide the much-needed relief on NH 366 from heavy vehicular traffic, which proceeds from the port town, Vasco via Sancoale, Cortalim village towards Loutolim and then on the NH 748 towards Mollem. 

Night diversion increases the risk of accidents

A regular commuter between Cortalim and Vasco during the night hours expressed that the fear is that during the monsoons the road is hardly visible and with a sudden increase in the traffic, circumstances are going to be terrible. 

“The streetlights all along the road are flickering and more than half of them are not functional. We have witnessed several accidents on this road and with more traffic, the fear of more accidents only enhances”, he stated.

Non-functional street light, fear of landslides

Apart from the narrow roads, as pointed out the road is not illuminated, increasing the risk of accidents. Most of the streetlights along the NH 566 between Verna and Airport, Airport to Chicalim and Chicalim to Cortalim are not functional, leading to pitch dark spots all along the route.

NH 366 also poses the risks of landslides due to soil erosion as the road widening works were taken up last year but have not been completed. Earlier this month, when the State experienced rough weather due to cyclone 'Vayu' off the Goa Coast in the Arabian Sea, trees were uprooted and crashed on the road.

Ready to handle the situation: Vasco Traffic police 

Vasco traffic cell is all geared up to monitor the traffic flow situation. Vasco Traffic Police Inspector, Suraj Samant informed that as per the directions the 3.6 km stretch will remain closed for all types of vehicular movement between 11 pm and 7 am from Monday, June 24. He further said that as per the plan, traffic will move from Verna junction to Dabolim airport and from there on to Chicalim junction and further it will move to Cortalim roundabout junction and vice versa. 

Speaking about the preparedness to deal with an emergency situation in case of an accident he said “Vasco traffic police will be deployed in adequate numbers and will be available in case of any accidents or emergencies. We have two cranes with Vasco traffic cell to move accidental vehicles to clear traffic congestion.”

However, he expressed that since it will be night-hour-traffic movement there will not be a rush as seen during the day. 

“During night time there won’t be much traffic as per my expectation. Nevertheless, we will have to monitor the traffic movement for some days once diversion starts and accordingly additional staff will be deployed if needed”, he added.

He further stated that if needed then the additional force will be requested to maintain and monitor the smooth flow of traffic.  “Presently we have enough police force and if required additional staff will be asked from other traffic cells as the issue affects at the state level.”

He further said that though due to the diversion of traffic, people will have to travel 22 kilometres, during the day time after 7 am a normal flow of traffic from Verna to Cortalim junction will resume. 

Motorists can use the internal roads: Sancoale Sarpanch

When the PWD had initially proposed the diversion in December 2018, panchayats and locals were up in arms against the decision, however, the decision now has not met any opposition from either the locals or panchayat bodies.

A major portion of the diverted route falls under the jurisdiction of Sancoale village on both the national highways, NH 366 and NH 566. 

Sancoale Sarpanch, Girish Pillai said that since the diversion will be only during the night hours locals will not face hardships. 

When pointed out that to avoid longer route commuters and motorists could use the internal roads of Shindolim passing through the village, he said “There won't be any problem if commuters use internal roads of Shindolim, Sancoale, etc. If it was in the day time, then there might have been a traffic issue but as the traffic diversion will be done from 11 pm to 7 am, I don’t foresee any problem.”

Problems with this stretch was not factored in original plan

In 2018 the construction of the new Zuari Bridge and the flyovers on either side had picked up speed and momentum, however, after the initial work of piling and erecting the pillars construction work slowed down, especially between Cortalim and Verna junctions. 

As per the design, the four-lane flyover will be constructed with a three-segment assembly structure. The central segment which has already been set between Cortalim and Verna stretch and the two other components are the two side spans. 

According to sources when the agency actually began constructing the flyover, it was realised that lives could be in danger as the span work for the flyover needed more space. 

The parallel road between Verna and Cortalim junction was not part of the initial planning when the construction of the new Zuari Bridge and the extended flyovers were finalised.

A senior PWD official said “They had not anticipated the traffic flow and the agency had to change their sequence of work. Since they cannot keep the space occupied with ready material, they laid out the central pieces of the flyover and are now waiting to start the span work”, he stated.

Deputy Director of Dilip Buildcon Ltd, Atul Joshi said “During the four months period between June 24 and October 15 there will be a major work of bridge construction specifically the segment works involving wing transportation and wing lifting work will take place at night time from 11 pm to 7 am. Considering the people's safety the traffic diversion had to be done.”

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