State wants NHAI to realign elevated expressway along Cooum and resume work

The State government has set the ball rolling to revive a stalled project — the Chennai Port-Maduravoyal elevated expressway along the Cooum.

The Water Resources Department (WRD) has written to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which is implementing the project, to realign the expressway and proceed with the Rs. 1,815-crore project.

Last March, WRD had issued a ‘stop’ notice for work along the Cooum river stating the proposed expressway encroached on the waterway in some parts.

WRD had permitted work on a 4.5-km stretch — from Egmore to Chetpet — along the banks of the river.

WRD also said that pile caps constructed at Chetpet, along Spurtank Road, were found to be built up to the maximum flood-level limit of the river rather than the bank.This would obstruct free flow of water, particularly when the river runs to its brim during floods, said a WRD official.

In its letter, WRD has asked NHAI to rectify the problem of an alignment change in places such as Spurtank Road and downstream of Choolaimedu bridge.

The NHAI should also present the revised alignment before the high-level steering committee comprising representatives from six departments for approval.

It must then be sent to the State government for a final nod before work is resumed.

As the project has been put on hold for nearly a year, the river bed has been engulfed by thick vegetation on stretches near Spurtank Road and Ethiraj Salai. The waterway also faces the threat of encroachments.

According to NHAI, however, there is no deviation from the original alignment approved by the State government.

Though the WRD had asked it to stop work on section-I (from Port to Koyambedu), work on section-II of the project (from Koyambedu to Maduravoyal) has also been put on hold.

As a result, the concessionaire (the company that is to build, operate and transfer the project after 21 years) has raised claims for idle machinery and sought compensation for the delay and escalation of prices of construction material.

According to an official, there would be at least a 10 per cent increase in project cost.

So far, nearly Rs. 500 crore has been spent on the project and just 20 per cent of the work has been completed.

NHAI will take a call on the future course of action once it receives the letter from WRD, the official said.

The Tamil Nadu government is yet to complete its share of the work in terms of relief and rehabilitation of dwellers along the Cooum river and acquisition of the land.

More In: Chennai