The Capital is in the grip of one of its worst phases of bad traffic conditions and the situation is set to worsen with more stretches coming under repairs and construction work, include those near Anand Vihar and Chirag Dilli, according to Public Works Department (PWD) plans and alerts by the Delhi Traffic Police.
These projects – a six-lane flyover is being built at Anand Vihar in East Delhi and the flyover at Chirag Dilli in South will be repaired– will choke key stretches at a time when long jams have blighted commuters at Ashram (also in South Delhi), Dwarka (in southwest Delhi) and Punjabi Bagh (in West Delhi).
Experts and commuters rued the timing of the works, which will particularly cripple traffic on the arterial Ring Road and Outer Ring Road. “Out of these five points, the south-southeast corridor along Ring Road is most critical as it provides connectivity with the airport, satellite towns, and major parts of the city. PWD and Delhi traffic police should have scheduled the projects in a manner that all traffic nodes were not impacted simultaneously,” said Dr S Velmurugan, chief scientist, Central Road Research Institute (CRRI).
Velmurugan added that while repair work for old flyovers like Chirag Dilli flyover is crucial, it “should not have been done before the Ashram extension flyover was completed”.
“In the end, it will be Delhi traffic police officials managing the situation on the ground and the no objection certificates should be provided only if they are confident of controlling the situation,” he added.
A second expert concurred. Prof Sewa Ram, professor of transport planning in the School of Planning and Architecture, said that some these locations in the five congestion nodes are independent and will have localised impact but the combination of the congestion at Chirag Dilli flyover with Ashram flyover can increase the misery for the commuters.
“Chirag Dilli provides connectivity towards Nehru Place as well as Mathura Road and some of the commuters affected by Ashram flyover closure will be taking this route. In case of the expansion joint repair work, PWD should be closing only one lane at a time while shifting the carriageway with less traffic volume at-grade level. In many cases, Google Maps and navigation applications do not reflect the accurate situation on ground lead to more chaos,” he added.
For the east Delhi work, the Delhi Traffic Police on Monday issued an advisory on social media to alert commuters about congestions on both the carriageways between Apsara border and Anand Vihar bus terminal till the end of this year.
A traffic police officer from Vivek Vihar circle said that the works on the stretch, which began over a month ago, have been stepped up and because of that, two lanes in each carriageway are affected, narrowing the space for vehicles and causing bottlenecks.
The stretch on the Outer Ring Road is a key route between east Delhi and northeast Delhi, and is also used by people travelling to-and-fro the railway station and the interstate bus terminal at Anand Vihar. People travelling between south and northeast Delhi too use this route via NH-24 for faster travel time.
In south Delhi, the PWD has closed the Ashram flyover till mid-February for work to link it to a new overpass being built 50 metres ahead. To reduce the load due to the Ashram restrictions, the traffic police suggested alternate routes such as Lala Lajpat Rai Marg and the Outer Ring Road via Modi Mill flyover and IIT flyover. Some of this traffic will need to take the Chirag Dilli flyover, which will be partially closed after Republic Day celebrations.
The old flyover was constructed in 1992 and structural audit of the structure has underlined the need for repair of the expansion joints. The work will cause jams on roads adjoining the flyover, such as the erstwhile site of the BRT Corridor and Mehrauli-Badarpur Road.
“While granting approval, we will make sure the agency does not entirely shut the flyover for vehicular movement while carrying out the repair work,” the traffic police officer said.
According to the Tom Tom live traffic index, Delhi had 34% congestion around 9pm on Monday with 242 traffic jams spanning 127km. A 34% congestion level means that on average, travel times were 34% longer than during the baseline non-congested conditions.
Special commissioner of police (traffic) Surender Singh Yadav said, “Construction, expansion and repairs of flyovers and roads are the need of the hour. The traffic police have to give permissions for such projects to the road owning agencies, as risks cannot be taken if roads and flyovers are damaged and need urgent attention. Infrastructural developments are also necessary.”
Senior PWD official did not comment on why the projects were initiated simultaneously. Delhi government spokesperson did not comment on the impact of the simultaneous initiation of the projects and what steps will be taken to minimise the congestion.
In west Delhi, traffic has been hit on the Ring Road between Rajouri Garden and Punjabi Bagh since November and is likely to remain constricted till the end of this year due to the construction of a six-lane elevated section between Raja Garden and Punjabi Bagh. The existing one-way flyover near the club road has been demolished.
Bhanu Thukral who was travelling near Punjabi Bagh on Monday evening said that the evening rush hours have become much more difficult to navigate after work started last month. “I feel like we have been driving since eternity at the same place. Spending 1.5-2 hours covering 16 km is too much. There was no traffic police on the road to manage this chaos,” he added.