In a bid to reduce accidents on the scenic East Coast Road, the Tamil Nadu Road Development Company (TNRDC) has started work on widening a 33-km stretch of the road from Akkarai to Mamallapuram.

The work, which has been taken up at a cost of Rs. 272 crore, is expected to be completed in two years.

Every day, on an average, 13,000 vehicles take the road that connects Chennai to several tourist spots including Mamallapuram, Alambara Fort and Puducherry. During the weekends, the number rises to 15,000 vehicles a day.

Statistics reveal that in 2012-13, there were 174 accidents, of which 20 were fatal involving the deaths of 24 persons. “People like to travel fast on the two-lane road causing accidents. Accidents happen more on weekends,” explained a source in the TNRDC. M. Arunachalam, a watchman at a restaurant at Kanathur on ECR, said accidents keep occurring every day on the road. “There is not a single day when an ambulance is not called. Rash driving by youth is the primary reason for the frequent accidents,” he said.

For the widening, the contractor has already started work on removing encroachments along the road.

Notices have been issued to over 160 persons. The land, measuring over 59 hectares, had been acquired much before the ECR became a toll road facility in March 2002.

“At that point of time there was no need for a four-lane facility, which is why the land was acquired and kept in possession with future expansion in mind,” said a source in the highways department, which owns the road. Some property owners had constructed compound walls or put up small gardens or play areas on the land, which lies along the road. Already encroachments, including bus shelters, in two of the 13 revenue villages have been removed.

As part of the work, a two-metre-wide median will be constructed to prevent head-on collisions. The entire 33-km stretch will get lighting at a cost of Rs. 8.1 crore.

A new bridge will come up alongside the Muttukadu bridge and three bridges at Kovalam and two near Mamallapuram will also be widened and strengthened.

Beyond Mamallapuram, nine curves and seven junctions will be improved. The junctions would get better lighting and service lanes, TNRDC officials said.