Four years ago, Mahendra N. could drive down to his house on Kalidasa Road in Mysore from his workplace on Kasturba Road in Bangalore in just two-and-a-half hours. “Now, it takes me three-and-a-half hours,” rued Mahendra, a manager in a private bank.
Mahendra travels every Saturday afternoon to Mysore to be with his family over the weekend, before returning to Bangalore on Monday morning.
Until a few years ago, the 140-km stretch between the two cities was an idyllic drive alongside paddy and sugarcane fields. Not any longer.
Soon after clearing the obstacle course on Mysore Road within Bangalore, where various infrastructure work have been taken up simultaneously, Mahendra joins hundreds of vehicles on the four-lane Bangalore-Mysore State Highway No 17. The slow crawl on this stretch has increased his journey by over an hour.
The drive is even more stressful on Sundays when a horde of private vehicles hit the highway. “I take almost five hours to reach Bangalore from Mysore if I leave on a Sunday afternoon,” said K.V. Prasad, a resident of Mysore, who often travels to Bangalore.
The increase in traffic has forced many commuters to choose leaving the royale city either before or after peak hour traffic. “Earlier, I could leave Mysore at 7 a.m. and still reach my client’s place in Bangalore’s central business district by 9.30 a.m. Now, I have to leave an hour earlier,” said Mr. Prasad.
Apart from a large number of people who come to work in Bangalore from Mysore, several tourists take the highway for a weekend getaway to Mysore, Kodagu, Udhagamandalam in Tamil Nadu and tourist spots in Kerala.
Traffic is expected to witness a spurt during the Dasara season.
Additional Director-General of Police, Computer Wing, and Commissioner for Traffic and Road Safety Praveen Sood said that traffic will continue to go up as there are a number of professionals, with substantial disposable income, who are travelling a lot now.
Apart from private vehicles, Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) operates nearly 850 trips every day between the two cities, carrying an average 21,000 passengers.
According to a Road Traffic census carried out by the Public Works Department (PWD) in 2011, the busiest stretch on the highway between Bangalore and Bidadi has recorded a staggering 1,16,709 passenger car units (PCUs) per day, up from 57,301 the previous year. This, according to the census, when the average PCUs on the State highways in Karnataka is 9,321.
Minister for Public Works H.C. Mahadevappa said the highway between the two cities is clearly the busiest in the State with PCUs estimated to be in the range of 75,000 to 80,000 per day.
A PWD official, citing the Indian Roads Congress guidelines that stipulate a maximum carrying capacity of 15,000 PCUs in one direction for a two-lane highway, said that the volume of traffic on Bangalore-Mysore highway is way beyond the limits even if the census has taken into account the vehicles plying in both directions.
To address these issues, the State government has now proposed to upgrade the highway into a national highway and widen it into a six-lane and an eight-lane highway.