Both highways and roads in this tourism district are in a shambles
Once known for its smooth roadways, Udupi district can no more boast of having excellent road infrastructure. More than two-thirds of the State Highways (SH) and major district roads (MDR) are in a state of disrepair.
Of the 353.71 km SH and 791 km MDR in the district, 214 km and 547 km respectively are riddled with potholes, as Public Works Department officials themselves admit. The worst part is that the SH connect important tourist and pilgrim destinations such as Dharmasthala (SH 37), Udupi-Malpe (SHs 37 and 65), Kollur (SH 27) and Kundapura (SH 52).
The Udupi-Karkala road that moves further to Dharmasthala is riddled with potholes and the stretch between Hiriyadka and Byloor is particularly treacherous, said Harish Bhat, a government employee who regularly travels by bus from Karkala to Udupi.
Similarly, the Udupi-Hiriyadka-Hebri stretch, part of SH 65, is in a pathetic condition and has not seen regular maintenance, said Y.S. Srikanth, another commuter. The Kundapura-Thirthalli road (SH 52) is the worst especially between Hosangadi and Nagara, including the Balebare ghat stretch.
According to PWD officials, 120 km SHs are to be developed under State Highways Development Project Phase 2 after the monsoon, while steps would be taken to fill potholes on the remaining 90 km affected stretches. There is also the promise that all potholes on the MDR will be filled after the monsoon.
The 42-km stretch of NH 17, between Kundapura and Shiroor bordering Uttara Kannada district, has not seen routine maintenance for five years, with worst stretches between Kundapura-Tallur (2.3 km), Arate bridge-Trasi (4 km) and Otthinene-Shiroor bridge (8 km). NH 17 connecting Trichur in Kerala and Panvel in Maharahstra is an important link for coastal Karnataka districts.
While stretches of this highway have been made four-lane between Mangalore-Udupi-Kundapura, maintenance on stretches beyond Kundapura (towards Karwar) has not been taken up for over five years as the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) was expected to take up the four-laning work, said Krishna Rao, Assistant Executive Engineer, NH division of the PWD. With no signs of upgradation or maintenance, the roadways are a shambles.
PWD’s efforts to fill potholes with wet-mix macadam has worked as only a temporary measure. With torrential rain, all the potholes have resurfaced. Mr. Rao said a bitumen layer could be laid only after November while the department has released Rs. 50 lakh for annual maintenance. Udupi Consumers’ Forum trustee H. Shantharaj Aithal demanded the roads should be reconstructed to bear the load of increasing number of vehicles.