Road widening work on the Erattupetta-Wagamon stretch of the Pala-Elappara route has been completed at three curves of 11 major ones identified by the Public Works Department.
The road connects tourist spots in Wagamon to south Kerala. V.P. Jafferkhan, assistant executive engineer of the Erattupetta division of the PWD, said the work was being conducted in three stages — curve widening, quarry blasting and crash guard building.
Rs.19 crore project
An amount of Rs. 19 crore has been sanctioned for the project and it is to be completed by May 30, he said. The work began on January 2 and the traffic on the stretch has been blocked from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
There is also a plan to rubberise the road, considering its tourist potential, he said.
Frequent accidents on the stretch and an increase in traffic during the peak tourist season prompted authorities to take up the project.
Moreover, only one-way traffic is possible on long stretches as the road is narrow. During the peak season, vehicles have to stop for long hours.
Heavy fog, especially at night, impairs the vision too.
The road was built by blasting rocks manually, its work dating back to the British era. It was opened for traffic in the 1950s. The aim of the road was to connect to the tea plantations in Wagamon and Elappara. Wagamon was then a major hub of tea trade and the Britishers developed basic infrastructure there, as per data available on the construction work.
The road, an engineering marvel, later turned to connect the High Ranges to the plains and after farmers settled, buses started plying on the route.
The road later assumed importance in terms of connectivity to Wagamon and to the Kollam-Theni National Highway on the way to Thekkady.
Mr. Jafferkhan said that this was the first time major works were being undertaken on the stretch.
At least, 60 loads of rocks were cleared every day and it was being used for strengthening of the sides and widening works, he said.
History records at least a dozen deaths during the construction work of the road. There is a memorial for the workers killed at Thekkoy junction.