Life & Style

Bengaluru-Mysore Expressway firmly in focus

Perhaps the most talked-about and high-profile infrastructure project in the state in recent times, the Bengaluru-Mysore Expressway continues to be in the news even after it has been thrown open to the public.

While last year, the expressway made national headlines after unprecedented rains flooded the underpass in Ramanagara, in the past few days, the project has been in the news ever since the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) started collecting tolls for vehicles. Has been The stretch between Bengaluru and Nidaghatta from March 14.

In addition to clamor among political parties claiming credit for the project, there is much debate over who benefits from the expressway and who does not, and whether collecting tolls is appropriate.

Work on the 117 km project was started in two phases: from Bengaluru to Nidaghatta (56.2 km) and from Nidaghatta to Mysuru (61.04 km). It has a six-lane main carriageway and two-lane service roads on either side. Construction was started in May 2019, and a June 2022 deadline was initially set. If approved, the project was expected to cost ₹7,836 crore. However, as per the revised estimates, this has jumped to ₹8,478 crore (including land acquisition cost).

An underpass that connects service roads on either side of the highway.

An underpass that connects service roads on either side of the highway. , Photo credits: K. Bhagya Prakash

time factor

On several occasions, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari has claimed that the travel time between Bengaluru and Mysuru will come down from three hours to 75 minutes once the expressway is opened. Till now the drivers were dependent on the four lane highway. However, due to factors such as traffic density and the towns that lay between the cities, the travel time was more than three hours.

The expressway bypasses cities such as Bidadi, Ramnagar, Channapatna, Maddur, Mandya and Srirangapatna. The total length of the bypass is 51 km. Other major features include an 8 km elevated corridor, 10 major bridges, 43 minor bridges and four road-over-rail bridges. NHAI says that the expressway will help people reach tourist destinations like Ooty, Wayanad, Madikeri, Bandipur and Srirangapanta faster.

Raghunath M, who frequently travels from Bengaluru to Madikeri, said, “It was a terrifying experience to drive on the old highway. There were many traffic bottlenecks in it. The new road has cut travel time drastically. Motorists don’t mind paying toll for good infrastructure. Even my friends who use the expressway say that it is a great relief.”

Though the expressway is a boon, it is challenging to reach. From Bengaluru side, it starts from Panchamukhi Temple. Due to traffic congestion, motorists spend much time on city streets before reaching the expressway. In the return direction, the congestion from Kumbhalgod towards Kengeri remains a matter of concern.

An aerial view of the Bangalore-Mysore Expressway.

An aerial view of the Bangalore-Mysore Expressway. , Photo credits: K. Murali Kumar

question on toll collection

NHAI had initially planned to collect the toll from February 28, after opening the main carriageway between Bengaluru and Nidaghatta. However, protests against its collection before the completion of service roads forced NHAI to defer it to March 14. People living in Bidadi, Ramnagar and other areas say the toll is exorbitant and daily commuters cannot afford it. He has also demanded to complete the work of service road soon.

Bidadi resident Chandrashekhar R. Said, “It is not right on the part of NHAI to collect toll without completing the service road. The government is putting a burden on the people. Those who depend on commercial vehicles for livelihood will also suffer.”

After toll collection began, the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) increased the ticket fare from ₹15 to ₹20 to burden commuters.

Project director BT Sridhar says that except for repairing the 100 meter service road near Christ University, service roads are ready in the rest of the areas. “Near Christ University, construction activities got delayed due to stay of Karnataka High Court. The court has now lifted the stay and work has resumed. It will be completed soon.

On allegations of NHAI charging heavy toll from commuters traveling from Bidadi to Bengaluru, the official said, “They can avail the concessional toll that has been notified. Those who do not want to use the main carriageway can use the service road.”

In some areas, railway tracks have come in the way of service roads. For example, NHAI did not construct a service road over the railway track near Nidghatta. Those using the service road have to take a U-turn and get down the village road to reach the other end of the service road. When asked about the non-construction of a service road over the rail track, the official said, “There is no provision under the rules to construct a service road over the rail track in this area.” Who will pay the toll if we provide service road along with the expressway?”

demand for amenities

Motorists and villagers are also demanding safety measures and roadside amenities from NHAI. Concerns have been raised over the lack of amenities such as signage, skywalks on the road, and emergency medical facilities. There were reports that in the last six months, more than 300 road accidents took place and around 80 people lost their lives on the expressway.

Krishna ji, who often travels between Bengaluru and Mysuru, said, “They have not completed the project. There are no washrooms or ambulances anywhere. We don’t even see any patrolling staff at night.”

Ramanagara district superintendent of police Karthik Reddy said, “As a safety measure, motorists using the expressway should stick to the speed limit and follow lane discipline. For the safety of pedestrians, we have asked NHAI to install foot overbridges at several points like Babusapla and Christ University.”

Project Director Mr. Sridhar said that roadside facilities including cafeteria will increase. “We are acquiring 30 acres of land to provide rest area and others. Regular patrolling of the expressway takes place daily, and ambulances have been provided. Near the toll plaza, motorists can use toilets.”

Officials also said that the pending work after Nidghatta is likely to be completed by the end of the month or in 30 days. The project director said that the work of the underpass near Induvalu would be completed soon. Based on the demands of the villagers, NHAI is constructing additional underpasses in some areas. Once the entire main carriageway is opened, there will be an upward revision in toll.

A portion of the Bengaluru Mysuru Expressway which is under construction.

A portion of the Bengaluru Mysuru Expressway which is under construction. , Photo credits: K. Bhagya Prakash

Credit war between political parties

As the assembly elections are round the corner, three major political parties are claiming credit for the project once the date of inauguration is fixed.

Former chief minister Siddaramaiah said it was during the Congress rule that the erstwhile state highway was upgraded to a national highway. He claimed that when Oscar Fernandes was the road transport and highways minister in the UPA government, based on the recommendation of the Congress government, the state had approved the upgrading of the highway to a 10-lane road.

BJP MP from Mysuru Pratap Simha has been vocal in every phase of the project. Over NHAI officials, he has been sharing updates like phased opening of the expressway, status of under-construction stretches and suspension of toll collection. Visuals of the expressway shared by the MP have gone viral on social media on several occasions. The MP recently credited the Narendra Modi government for taking all the major decisions and executing this project.

Amid the tussle, JD(S) leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy said the project was started using funds provided by the state government, and was supported by subsequent governments, regardless of land acquisition hurdles. To be removed or approval from the Forest Department. He said that during this tenure as Chief Minister, he held nine meetings to expedite the project.

(With inputs from Jhanvi TR)


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