Select roads in each zone will be improved: Davidar
For the last 30 years, R.Raman's wake-up call has been the rumble of heavy traffic rolling by outside his window. He lives on Kaliamman Koil Street, a crucial link between Arcot Road and Jawaharlal Nehru Salai.
The 3-km road which many residents term as the “narrowest main road in the city” has witnessed many protests and human chains. With the road receiving traffic volumes that far exceed its carrying capacity, widening it and providing at least a little space for pedestrians has been a constant demand for as long as 74-year-old Mr.Raman could remember.
“We have been fighting for it even before Koyambedu became a major hub,” he says. “I can't even cross the road to buy medicines these days. The situation is very bad. Public infrastructure has not at all kept pace with development.”
As early as 1976, as part of the city's First Master Plan, Kaliamman Koil Street was identified for widening and redevelopment. Three decades ago, the Plan suggested that the road has to be at least 80 feet wide in order cater to the projected vehicular traffic. By 2012, the road is still less than 40 feet wide on most stretches.
Much of the available space has also been appropriated for parking of commercial vehicles and private omnibuses.
The State government had constituted a committee headed by the Chief Secretary last year which recommended some corrective action, but the work which was supposed to begin last month has been put off for the time being owing to Metro Rail construction work. A senior government official said that too many things cannot be taken up at the same time.
In the larger scheme of things, Kaliamman Koil Street may be just one road. But the concern is that it seems to mirror the state of most interior roads in the city. Greater Chennai has a road network of about 4,252-km, of which nearly 90 per cent are categorised as ‘interior roads'. Public transport buses ply in only about 500-km of the entire network.
With the vehicular volume on most major roads in Chennai exceeding capacity by 300-400 per cent, according to the Chennai Comprehensive Traffic Study (2008), traffic flow is spilling on to most interior roads which are ill-equipped to handle it.
Raj Cherubal of Chennai City Connect, an NGO which works of traffic and transportation issues, says that uniform road design standards must be in place across the city. “It is obvious that some roads are totally neglected.”
A proposal was announced last year to upgrade 100-km of the city's arterial roads to ‘world-class standards', but experts say that it would be a cosmetic move if it is not replicated across the city.
“Even neighbourhood roads deserve some standards. A road can be anywhere from 6 metre to 45 m wide, but there has to be an ‘urban street design manual' which is rigorously followed. Everyone keeps talking about the major roads, but unless you fix the interior roads, no one will be able to get to the major road.”
He adds that widening roads is not sufficient and the philosophy has to shift towards a holistic view of a street, one that caters for walkers, vehicle parking and traffic flow.
Chennai Corporation Commissioner P.W.C. Davidar said that a survey has been completed in areas that were newly merged with the civic body. “Select interior roads in each zone would be improved in an integrated manner.”