As many as seven flyovers are being planned for the city. If they materialise, Chennai will have nearly 20 flyovers maintained by the Chennai Corporation. But ask the lay resident, he or she may tell you that many of these flyovers have made little difference to their daily commute.

Traffic jams, delays and chaos are still very much part of the daily story of arterial roads. This only means that the city needs more than just flyovers here and there – we need more holistic, higher order traffic solutions.

The resolution in this regard passed by the Corporation Council and the announcement made by the State government on Monday are purely based on data pertaining to the number of passenger car units crossing the intersections per hour. According to the action plan, increase in vehicular traffic was causing congestion in commercial areas such as T. Nagar, Royapettah and Egmore. To mitigate this situation, feasibility studies for the construction of grade separators at the locations will be done through consultants, Minister for Municipal Administration and Rural Development K.P. Munusamy told the Assembly.

On the list of proposed grade separators is yet another stepping stone to uncertainty, as it seeks to integrate two existing flyovers on Usman Road in T. Nagar to connect it to Anna Salai. The civic body plans to remove the ramps to connect them and form one single structure.

If the feasibility study does not support integration of the two grade separators, the action plan has another option that extends the South Usman Road flyover up to Anna Salai.

Before finalising the terms of reference and preparation of the detailed project report, the Corporation should insist that the consultant focus on mistakes made in the past and learn from them.

Ideas reiterated by the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority on the need to plan for a corridor as a whole or an entire area should not be discounted in the Corporation's pursuit of piecemeal solutions to traffic.

The grade separator at the junction of North Usman Road-Kodambakkam High Road was constructed at a cost of Rs. 9.72 crore and the facility at Usman Road-Duraisamy Road junction, at Rs. 19.8 crore.

The proposal at Adhithanar Salai, Pantheon Road and Dr. Rukmani Lakshmipathy Road junction is also likely to become redundant in a few years like the T. Nagar facilities if the feasibility study does not take into account the impact of major infrastructure projects underway on arterial roads such as Ponamallee High Road, Anna Salai and the elevated link road along the Cooum River.

Most data collected on passenger car units crossing the junction by the consultant may become irrelevant just by a decision to divert traffic in a road nearby or the construction of a new bridge in proximity.

A traffic and transportation planner recently told me about a study -- conducted by Anna University in the 1990s -- on reducing traffic at the College Road, Sterling Road and Valluvar Kottam High Road Junction as an example. According to the study, the construction of small bridges across the Cooum River in proximity to the junction was an affordable and effective alternative to a grade separator in the junction. However, the recommendations of many such studies were not taken seriously.

Other proposals such as those at Arcot Salai and K.K. Nagar 80 feet Road Junction; Mandaiveli Junction; Bharathi Salai and Royapettah Clock Tower Junction and Gandhi Mandapam Salai and Ponniamman Koil Salai Junction at Kotturpuram too have similar concerns and a past to look into, which is available in records with CMDA, IIT and Anna University.

A look into the past hardly works for heritage lovers now; yet, it may help engineers achieve infrastructure marvels for efficient civic amenities in Chennai.

Aloysius Xavier Lopez writes on civic issues for The Hindu.

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Aloysius Xavier LopezJune 28, 2012

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