OMR is a pretty enclave but its linking roads are harsh realities — a classic example of double standards

Rajiv Gandhi Salai or OMR as it is popularly known is the most pampered road in the city: wide, well-landscaped, dotted with artwork and a place where you can travel relatively faster. But to use OMR, one has to first get there — and the journey to it is often harrowing. Whether you approach from Sardar Patel Road or Thiruvanmiyur or Velachery, there is no escaping the clogged junctions, crawling vehicles, impatient cars and traffic blocks.

OMR is a pretty enclave but its linking roads are harsh realities — a classic example of double standards, myopic planning and inaction. Why can’t we get one planning project right?

In 2001, the State government decided to build the 46 km stretch of OMR following the Confederation of Indian Industry’s complaint that recurring accidents on this road caused injuries to IT professionals and their visiting foreign clients. As part of the first phase, a 20 km six-lane road at a cost of Rs. 290 crore was completed in 2008. In their hurry to provide a glamorous address for IT companies, the planners focused only on the construction of OMR and did not bother about its connectivity with the rest of the city. The impact of accommodating more than three million square metre of office space was not foreseen.

With no residential accommodation, schools or hospitals, it is impossible for most of the 2,00,000 employees who work on OMR to live on this road. They commute from the city and reach their destination from three key directions. As a result, 30,000 vehicles jam the entry points every day. They cannot be blamed.

A grade separator to ensure a free right turn at Madhya Kailash is a solution that would appeal to anyone’s common sense. Chennai Corporation claims that they too had thought about it and a proposal to ease traffic on both sides of the junction exists. But what stops them from implementing it?

About 7,000 sq.mt. of land has to be acquired from the sprawling campus of the Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI) to construct the grade separator. The CLRI refuses to part with the land and the Corporation is not keen to push it. Imagine, instead of CLRI if it was a group of houses sitting on the land needed. The civic body would have bulldozed them by this time.

Taramani Link Road and its junctions are equally problematic. Road widening, which started in 2009, is not yet complete and this Rs. 23 crore project is still underway. It is impossible to navigate this link during peak hours. The less said about Thiruvanmiyur junction the better.

One can see a similar ‘enclave’ approach in other projects as well. For example, there are no plans to redesign the approach roads or integrate parking and pedestrian flow around the metro stations. Plans to comprehensively develop areas around the stations are not ready, but there are already proposals to increase the Floor Space Index (ratio that determines the extent of construction in a plot). A huge commercial development in Santhome is on the drawing board, but there is no idea about how to manage the already congested road in front of it.

City planners and the Corporation work with blinkers on. There are no integrated plans. As a result, large developments continue to create gridlocks and poor residents nearby and others who can be bullied, are forced to vacate and make way for costly transport solutions. Why should Chennai residents always end up paying for planners’ mistakes? Why can’t we plan thoughtfully?

More In: Chennai