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RTR Knot: 10 Years Of TOI’s Hot Pursuit

RTR Knot: 10 Years Of TOI’s Hot Pursuit

The half-flyover was a 60cr blunder and the capital paid a heavy price as traffic crawled

The Rao Tula Ram flyover on Outer Ring Road — just 9 metres wide and 920-metres long with three lanes — was a Rs 60-crore Commonwealth Games gift to the city. However, within days of its commissioning, it became a headache for commuters. And it was TOI which carried out a relentless campaign to highlight how ill-conceived this halfflyover was and why the authorities needed to wake up and undo the damage. Finally, on Tuesday evening, traffic will sail through this stretch. This is the story of how this was achieved.

As jams became the norm, the traffic police was at its wit’s end. The traffic flow was reversed in both directions a few times — airport to IIT and IIT to airport — but there was no easing of congestion. Finally, in December 2010, with bollards and later with jersey barriers, the carriageway was cleaved into two for two-way traffic movement.

It was clear within a few days that this could be just an interim solution. Jams mounted and residents, particularly those living in Vasant Vihar, were a harassed lot. Entering or leaving the colony became a task that tested their patience. Students of the many schools in the area were also getting caught in the gridlock.

This was not conceived originally as a half-flyover. It was inaugurated in October 2009, but just six months earlier, Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) had warned that it will become a “traffic hazard” and a two-way flyover was needed. PWD had, in fact, much before the project was launched in May 2007, proposed a two-way flyover but its technical committee quite mysteriously rejected that plan in favour of a half-baked measure.

It also junked other related infrastructure projects — nine subways and four underpasses.

It was common knowledge in the department that a group of influential residents living along the road had pulled strings and prevailed upon the authorities to change their plans. The reason: they didn’t wish to part with their service lane though it was part of the 45-metre right of way (RoW) reserved for Outer Ring Road which can be used for public purpose. They also objected to the fact that the traffic would be level with their upper floors, destroying their privacy. A rock at Malai Mandir also came in the way though the temple authorities had later relented and agreed to its removal.

Even as Delhi government’s PWD dragged its feet for months over hiring RITES as a consultant to conduct a study and suggest solutions, TOI spoke to independent experts and began suggesting solutions. One prominent one was to widen the flyover by five metres on both sides to create two carriageways of threelane width. The RTR flyover is supported on cantilevers and the additional lanes could be propped up on similar supports with the traffic at the base running between them.

Finally, in December 2011, RITES was awarded the contract for a 12-month survey. By July 2012, it had proposed two solutions: Widening the existing three-lane flyover by adding three metres on each side to have a four-lane divided carriageway or creating an additional threelane flyover on a portal structure along the existing flyover to create a six-lane flyover. By September 2012, a consensus on the second plan had been achieved. Under the Rs 278-crore project, the new flyover would start near the Munirka petrol pump and end close to the Army R & R Hospital at Subroto Park.

However, the influential lobby of residents once against threw a spanner in the works by going to the LG and trying to get the width of the proposed extension reduced in order to save their service lane. This time PWD minister Raj Kumar Chauhan put his foot down.

Finally, in April 2013, the Delhi government approved the plan to construct an additional three-lane flyover parallel to the existing flyover. The LG approved this at a meeting of the apex planning body, UTTIPEC. Construction work was started in November 2014 with a deadline of November 2016. However, the project got caught in bureaucratic red tape. Permission for cutting of trees, shifting of utilities and diversion of traffic proved to be huge problems. The deadline was once again extended to December 2018. Simultaneously, a penalty – Rs 27.8 crore -- was imposed on the private contractor. The antipollution restrictions enforced by EPCA in the winter of 2018 slowed down the project considerably.

TOI has been doggedly monitoring the project at every step. Three more deadlines have been crossed since then — March 2019, May 2019 and June 2019. Finally, the flyover is ready and waiting to give the city much needed relief.