The Tiruchi-Thanjavur National Highway (NH-67), which is currently being widened into a four-lane highway by the National Highways Authority of India, will be without service lanes along the urban stretch of the highway in Tiruchi district, giving a rude shock to local residents.

Though the NHAI usually provides service lanes on either side of the highways (especially in the urban stretches) that have four lanes, the Tiruchi-Thanjavur highway seems to be an exception. The 56-km stretch of the highway has four lanes at a cost of about Rs. 280 crore on Build-Operate-Transfer basis. The project originally scheduled to be completed by June 2009 has suffered a time overrun and is now expected to be completed by March 2010. So far about 70 per cent of the project works have been completed, with about 34 km of the highway being four-laned so far.

According to sources, service lanes could not be laid owing to the non-availability of lands in the highway stretch in Tiruchi district. An initial proposal for land acquisition on the urban stretch of the highway in the district, between Ariyamangalam and Thuvakudi, was dropped owing to stiff opposition from local traders. The road stretch runs along the most industrialised segment of the district and is highly urbanised with a large number of shops and industrial units all along. Local traders successfully lobbied with the political class to drop the land acquisition to save their business interests.

An NHAI official said that though there would be no service lanes continuously along the urban stretches of the highway, they were now working on laying service lanes wherever land was available. A list of such places where the service lanes could be laid was being finalised, he said.

But local residents and service organisations of the City apprehend that the absence of service lanes would make it dangerous for motorists to join the busy highway with a very high volume of traffic round-the-clock.

The Federation of Consumer and Service Organisations has already sent a representation to the NHAI chairman seeking his intervention to ensure that the four-lane highway was laid down in the Manual of Standards and Specifications for Four-laning of National Highways through public-private partnership.

The president of the federation, M. Sekaran, said as per the manual, local traffic in built up areas should be separated with provision of service roads. Built-up area refers to all sections of the Project Highway, which are situated within the limits of municipal town(s) and include sections of 200 metres or more in non-municipal areas where dwellings/shops have been built on one or both sides of the Project Highway. The service roads should be connected to the main highway through properly designed entry/exit ramps. At the ends, the service roads shall be provided with end treatment so that the local traffic is able to merge the highway in a safe and efficient manner. Any compromise on these norms would lead to safety hazards, cautioned M. Sekaran.