Has the 510-metre flyover at Bakery Junction, the first full-grade separator in the State, helped reduce traffic congestion?

Constructed as a link to the Palayam underpass, the flyover, a major component of the City Roads Improvement Project (CRIP), was commissioned three years ago. It provides a route across the arterial road for vehicles coming through National Highway 66 from Chakka, Pettah, General Hospital and Asan Square towards Thampanoor and from the east to the west of the city.

Eyebrows were raised when the underpass and flyover were announced. Road-users and urban planners were sceptical about it. At present, 3,000 passenger car units (PCU) per hour move along the underpass and flyover and it goes up to 5,000 when the roads get blocked.

“We have found that long-distance buses leaving Thampanoor are able to reach PMG junction in less than five minutes saving time and considerable quantities of fuel. When the arterial roads get clogged, the underpass and flyover save motorists time,” says TRDCL Project Director Anilkumar Pandala who is also director, IL & FS Transportation Networks Ltd. Built on 13 concrete piers, the flyover has an 11-metre wide carriageway with concrete crash barriers on the sides. The 14-span bridge and the 300-metre long underpass is out of bounds for pedestrians.

“It was based on the inner and outer ring road concepts and the location was preferred as the land acquisition was minimal,” Mr. Pandala says.

Vehicles, especially long-distance buses, coming via the flyover and underpass, to move out of the city, often get caught in the traffic at Asan Square as there is a lot of activity, including protest marches, to the Secretariat and Legislative Assembly.

The lack of turning radius and poor traffic flow handling from General Hospital and VJT Hall sides create chaos, a transport planner says. Often, the traffic snarl spreads to the underpass and beyond to Bakery Junction and to General Hospital Junction.

More planning would have helped retain the old road from the VJT Hall side to PMG side. A 14-metre four-lane underpass, with a divider, should have been created taking into account the future traffic needs, he says. “We had to do a little bit of correction to retain the Asan statue, MLA quarters, Chandrasekharan Nair Stadium, and Martyr’s Column and to provide mandatory ground clearance of 5.5 metres,” he says.

The gradient of the underpass is 3.5 per cent and decreasing it to meet the clearance requirement should have resulted in the shifting of the junction by 15 metres into the university campus. “We went for the best option,” Mr. Pandala says.

Work on the flyover, which began in August 2005, came to halt in 2006 after the executing agency threatened to pull out citing delay in getting land. Though the flyover contract was renewed, the construction was held up several times by the delay in land acquisition, procedural problems, and the dispute between the government and the contractors.

The PWD portfolio changed hands five times during the work, from M.K. Muneer to P.J. Joseph, T.U. Kuruvila, Mons Joseph, and back to P.J. Joseph.