Did mission decongestion in Bengaluru work?

Almost a year since the heads of various civic departments identified seven congested junctions in Bengaluru, a reality check on what has worked and what hasn’t

Updated - June 23, 2023 05:59 pm IST

Published - June 22, 2023 07:52 pm IST - Bengaluru

Hebbal Junction.

Hebbal Junction. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

It has been almost a year since the heads of various civic departments including the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), Bangalore Development Authority (BDA), Bengaluru Traffic Police (BTP) and others, led by then Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, identified seven notorious junctions in Bengaluru city. They were Hebbal, Goraguntepalya, Tin Factory, Sarakki Junction, Jayadeva Junction, Iblur Junction and the infamous Silk Board Junction. Cut to the present day, the commuters on these busy routes feel like not much has changed except for a few minor improvements. There is a lot of room for improvement, they concurred.

Hebbal’s decongestion plan keeps moving through loops 

A sort of a gateway to Bengaluru, those coming from Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) towards the city cannot miss the Hebbal flyover. It is also the route for commuters to Yeshwantpur on one side and K.R. Puram on the other side.

In the decongestion plan, it was decided to give direct access for those coming from the airport to the flyover while cutting it off for those who are on the service road or are going towards Yeshwantpur. As a result, the vehicles moving on the service road, including all buses, had to pass below the flyover and go towards Outer Ring Road (ORR) and take the ramp to get to the city.

The BTP officials claimed that the segregation of vehicles reduced the travel time on the flyover from 22 minutes to 10 minutes. The commuters, who usually directly climb the flyover, agree.

“I have been travelling on this route for over a decade now. It is easier to cross the flyover now as the vehicular load is relatively less. The traffic police also stand on the flyover and ensure that there is no congestion on any lane or loop which is also helpful,” said Ravish K., a motorist.

For some others, the changes are not so useful. “Previously depending on how the traffic was at the time, we used to decide if we could go above the flyover or below it and cover the loop. After they made it compulsory, buses definitely added congestion before the signal there. It has increased our travel time now,” said a BMTC bus conductor.

Recently, Deputy Chief Minister and Bengaluru Development Minister D.K. Shivakumar also visited Hebbal and sought proposals from various departments to decongest the flyover. Kumar Naik, Commissioner, BDA, proposed to build additional loops on the flyover and an underpass below the flyover as it is the quick, doable option. The work on adding another ramp to the flyover from Esteem Mall to Baptist Hospital on Ballari Road started a few days ago. NHAI has also proposed a plan which involves the beautification and conversion of Hebbal Lake into a tourist hub while also easing congestion at many points.

Goruguntepalya Junction at Yeshwantpur.

Goruguntepalya Junction at Yeshwantpur. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

Growing number of vehicles in Goraguntepalya 

Ask any regular commuter in Goraguntepalya, and they will say that the traffic situation at the junction has been the same for years now, and they have no hope of it getting better. While the junction is on Tumakuru Road, which further connects vehicles to many districts, it also connects to the Outer Ring Road. From BMTC buses to KSRTC and private buses, this is the spot where lakhs of commuters get off. With the Green Line of the metro passing through, there is even a metro station near the junction, making it one of the most important transit hubs of the city.

Last year, various issues ranging from asphalting the road and clearing the traffic police kiosks to enable smooth flow of traffic to long-term plans like the construction of an underpass linking Outer Ring Road and a grade-level road up to ALISDA were discussed by the civic authorities.

The BTP also said they cleared the service road to act as a bus bay and freed three lanes for the movement of traffic. At the junction, however, it can be noticed that bus catchers come to the traffic movement lanes too while waiting for the bus.

“To be honest, we could say that the traffic here has gotten worse in the last year, which could mainly be because of the increasing number of vehicles. But the authorities’ plans did not do much about the congestion here. The traffic coming from Hebbal side especially piles up for at least three signals during peak hours,” said Jagadeesh, a delivery executive.

The problem persists in this junction for pedestrians even though it was stressed upon last year that a skywalk was necessary. “There are big buses everywhere you look here. We cannot avoid crossing the roads. Especially for someone like me, these big vehicles suddenly coming could turn fatal at any moment,” lamented Saraswathi, a senior citizen.

Jayadeva Junction.

Jayadeva Junction. | Photo Credit: BHAGYA PRAKASH K.

Little improvement in Jayadeva junction   

At the Jayadeva Junction, the traffic situation improved a little after decongestion measures were implemented. However, during the peak hour, the junction still consumes travel time of about 10 minutes as against 15-20 minutes.

The traffic police first cleared the materials placed for metro construction, creating more space at the junction falling on Bannerghatta Road, which sees the movement of lakhs of vehicles. The measures were taken after consultation with both BBMP and Bengaluru Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL). Sometimes, during the peak hours traffic personnel, man the junction to clear the snarl.

Sudarshan Rohan, a resident of J.P. Nagar 3rd Phase who is into real estate, said he had felt a change, although not significant. “I take this road regularly, and earlier, I used to get stuck for more than 20 minutes sometimes, like the Sarakki junction. Now even in the peak hour, I can move out in just 10-12 minutes.

He further said a few months back, a barricade was placed, which had worsened the traffic, but now it was removed for seamless travel. During normal hours one can pass through in less than 5 minutes sometimes.

Tin Factory Junction.

Tin Factory Junction. | Photo Credit: SUDHAKARA JAIN

Some respite at K.R. Puram  

The widening of the road and provision of bus bays on either side of the cable bridge at K.R. Puram has provided some respite from traffic congestion at the busy junction, infamous for traffic snarls. However, only the completion of Namma Metro construction work in the area will hopefully provide more relief to commuters travelling through the bottleneck.

“Commuting through the junction has definitely improved after the road was widened and bus stops were built. But metro construction continues to pose hurdles and cause traffic jams every day during morning and evening peak hours,” said Subhash Raj, a techie who travels through the junction every day. Krishnamurthy, a shopkeeper at Tin Factory Junction, said the junction could be eased only after metro construction was completed, and that seemed like many years away.

A team of senior officials led by Rakesh Singh, Additional Chief Secretary, Urban Development Department, had tasked BMRCL with the widening of the road and provision of bus bays on either side of the flyover, which has now been completed, building a new skywalk at the end of the flyover connecting K.R. Puram Railway Station to the Metro Station, which is yet to be completed, making commute through the stretch a tough ordeal still.

“Every time a train arrives at the K.R. Puram Railway Station, nearly 3,000 people cross the road, for which we need to stop vehicles. If a skywalk is built connecting the Railway Station towards the Metro station, we can make the flyover junction signal free, providing much respite,” said M.N. Anucheth, Joint Commissioner (Traffic), Bengaluru.

Anjum Parvez, MD, BMRCL, said they were waiting for approval from South Western Railway as the Foot-Over-Bridge will land in their land and once they get the approval it would be taken up very soon.

Meanwhile, work to connect Baiyappanahalli and K.R. Puram Metro stations — a 4.5 km stretch which would connect the IT corridor with the rest of the city — is in full swing and is expected to be completed by August end. This would also decongest the stretch. However, the airport line, which also passes through the junction and construction for which has blocked a lot of roadway, is working towards a 2025 deadline.

Sarakki Junction on Kanakapura Road.

Sarakki Junction on Kanakapura Road. | Photo Credit: BHAGYA PRAKASH K.

Traffic gridlock still a nightmare in Sarakki junction

Other than the signal-free left turn for vehicles coming from Konanakunte towards ORR, not many problems which were identified by the decongestion team last year have been resolved in Sarakki junctions. Yet, the traffic gridlock continues to be a nightmare for motorists travelling on ORR as well as those who commute towards to core areas of the city via this junction.

BTP has deployed some home guards to assist with traffic maintenance and make sure that no vehicles are parked on the road blocking traffic. They have also provided 15 seconds pedestrian signals for them to cross the road at the junction. Pedestrians said this was not enough and demanded that a skywalk be erected soon.

The traffic police’s move to restrict the right turn towards J.P. Nagar for vehicles coming from Konanakunte had to be withdrawn after the move was opposed by regular commuters as it shifted the traffic jams to the vegetable market on Banashankar – J.P. Nagar Road instead of easing it.

One of the most important suggested measures last year for the junction was the construction of a metro-cum-road flyover by BMRCL (cost shared by BBMP) at the height of over 55 feet to ease the traffic snarls. However, there has been little progress on this project.

Many other measures, including the raising of the height of the traffic signal on the BMRCL pillar by three feet, installing grills and pedestrian polls and raising the service road to Ring Road level have all been pending at the junction.

Abdul Aleem, president, Changemakers of Kanakapura Road Association, said, “Sarakki Junction is one of the major junctions which connects the major areas of the city. But owing to non-cooperation among elected representatives, BBMP and BMRCL, the junction has remained problematic for the people. We urge the BMRCL and BBMP to work together on the flyover as well as the metro alignment. The traffic police should also take initiative to resolve the traffic problem.”

Sustainable measures at Iblur junction is still a dream 

Despite various civic bodies trying to implement sustainable measures at the busy Iblur junction in East Bengaluru to ease traffic congestion, the junction sees heavy traffic not just during peak hours, complained local residents.

The junction is at the intersection of the Outer Ring Road (ORR) and Sarjapur Road. The traffic cops say that the problem starts from the Sarjapur fire station and then at Haralur junction, leading to traffic congestion at Iblur junction. A senior traffic police officer said that there was a proposal to make it a signal-free junction on an experimental basis, however it is yet to happen.

Naresh Rao, a local resident, said, “The local authorities have to fix the infrastructure of Sarjapur Road and install traffic lights at other important junctions so that the traffic will not congested here.”

Potholes have been another mess on this stretch and near the junction. Recently, waiting for the BBMP to fill up the pothole, finally the Bellandur traffic police had to fill the potholes at Iblur junction and Sarjapur Road.

The civic authorities have not yet started the proposed work of improving the pedestrian paths from Haralur junction to Iblur junction. The redesigning of the two islands in the junction to create more space for vehicles coming from Sarjapur road to Outer Ring Road (ORR) is also yet to start.

Krishna Nair, a resident of Bellandur, said that the other reason for traffic near the junction is metro work. “Work on the Haralur underpass is put on hold due to the Sarjapur Metro work, and this leads to more traffic to Iblur Junction where many come to take U-Turn from Haralur.”

Silk Board Junction.

Silk Board Junction. | Photo Credit: Silk Board Junction.

Silk Board remains the same

Central Silk Board junction, infamous for traffic, remains the same. This junction connects the east and southeast parts of the city while connecting Hosur Road. Apart from the infamous traffic of the Silk Board, now an additional issue is the construction of the Silk Board – Hebbal metro line, which has been in progress at the junction for the last four years. 

Jayananada Kumar, a car showroom manager near the junction, said, “The never-ending construction of the metro is a major problem of traffic in this junction. The road is flooded during rains, and then potholes add to the mess. Now it takes at least 30 to 40 minutes to pass the Silk Board signal during the peak hours.”  

Last year, the government asked the storm-water drain department to repair the drains on both sides of BTM Layout – Silk Board Road to prevent the overflow of sewage water during rains. There has been no progress in this regard.

Omkar Krishna Murthy, a regular commuter from Lake Road in BTM Layout to the HSR Layout, said, “The day the double-decker flyover started being constructed, the stretch became a mess. The authorities should complete the work soon and make sure that the road is repaired. Due to the metro work, the road has become narrow. Now to avoid this traffic snarl, I take the Bommanahalli route to reach HSR Layout. Though it is long, I can at least avoid the traffic.” 

The much-awaited R.V. Road to Bommasandra Metro line (19 km), which will connect Electronics City via Silk Board, is likely to start operations in December 2023 and expected to decongest the junction to a large extent.  

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