Nearly two weeks ago, a major chokepoint in city’s north-eastern fringes was eliminated when citizens starting driving over the Whitefield-Kadugodi railway overbridge. The bridge connects the Kadugodi-Seegehalli-Kannamangala area north of the Whitefield Railway Station with the rest of Bengaluru city.
After wait of nearly four years and a particularly excruciating two years, the clean, well-done road with bridge bounding walls nicely painted seems like a heaven-slapped fast lane for weary motorists here. It now takes only a minute to cross over what has been a 20-40 minutes detour, leading to an extra hour of road-time every day for most people going into the city and back. The bridge has one lane each for the two directions of traffic.
However, the bridge does not have a divider and a series of accidents have started piling up in short span of time.
There’s only a yellow line painted along the middle of the road to separate traffic in the two directions. At least some of the accidents have happened due to motorists using undivided sections of the bridge’s ramps to take U-turns, and by driving on the opposite lane at high speeds.
Praveen Sood, Bengaluru’s Additional Commissioner of Police (Traffic and Security), insists that accidents happen due to irresponsible driving rather than lack of dividers. The 7-metre wide bridge may become narrower if a divider is built, and the 5-cm-high divider can even be driven over by motorists. "When traffic opens in a road, there is an initial euphoria and dividers do not eliminate the traffic. But we do think that a divider is needed and we will write to the Railways about this," he says. (See also: Interview with Praveen Sood, published on July 26th.)
The Whitefield-Kadugodi stretch is part of the Whitefield-Hoskote Road (called Varthur Road at one place). It runs all the way from the Marathahalli/ORR intersection to the NH-4 highway, going east for one stretch first and then north from the Varthur lake area. The entire stretch is a divided road, and only the stretch over the new ROB is undivided.
A top engineering official South-Western Railway’s construction arm says,"We are aware of the accidents and have been informing the traffic police. We are ready to construct a divider on the road if the traffic police send us a letter asking for it". The official oversaw the last phase of the long-delayed bridge through to its completion. He spoke to Citizen Matters under condition that he not be named.
With the opening of the ROB, congestion has expectedly increased at the Hope Farm intersection, the first major signal south on the ROB towards Whitefield. This is where the Marthahalli-Whitefield-Kadugodi traffic meets the K R Puram-ITPL-Channasandra flow.The green signal is on for Kadugodi-Whitefield direction for only 30-40 seconds. Sood said that the signal will be recalibrated within a month when the traffic stabilizes.
"Earlier traffic in this road was very low, but now traffic is decreasing towards Channasandra side and increasing towards Kadugodi side. For the time being, we are changing the signal manually. Within a month the whole traffic pattern in the area will stabilize and we will change the time setting then," he says.
The BBMP has planned an underpass at this intersection, but the procedures have been suspended now as a case is going on in the High Court after a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) was filed by former Mayor P R Ramesh (Congress) over irregularities in tender procedures.
"All procedures have been stopped and we will proceed with the construction only after the case is closed. This might take a long time," Chikkarayappa, BBMP Chief Engineer for Major Roads, says. Ramesh declined to comment to Citizen Matters on the PIL citing possible contempt of court.
In the meantime, nearly two weeks after the long-awaited bridge opened up, commuters continue to enjoy the steep reduction in stress levels it has brought. On 15th July, when traffic first started to go over the bridge, there was an outpouring of joy and relief all round and it was best seen on residential e-mailing lists of the area’s affluent residents.
Reshmi Singh, in her late thirties, a training and education consultant and avid reader for whom the bridge has now become a lifeline to a circulating library and food stores, wrote this in an email to her fellow residents: "Went over the bridge….felt as it someone put a stent and opened an artery in my heart!". ⊕