It is 9.30 a.m. Decibel levels at Sahodaran Ayyappan Road have long exceeded the acceptable ranges. The entire stretch is teeming with persistently honking vehicles.
A screaming ambulance tries desperately to steer its way through this route locked in both directions. Inside the ambulance, Ramesh, the driver, is sweating and stretching out to the drivers seeking help. After a painful wait, he somehow manages to squeeze his way out from the bottleneck.
“It has become a regular thing to get trapped in this congestion. It takes at least 20-25 minutes for an ambulance to reach Pallimukku junction from Vyttila on a busy day. The toughest part is to clear the Kadavanthara-Panampilly Nagar-South Railway over bridge stretch,” says Mr. Ramesh.
No one wants to be on the roads of Kochi in a critical condition, requiring urgent medical help. Not even a daring driver like Ramesh.
Official records available with the Regional Transport Office pointed out that about 5.5 lakh vehicles ply in Ernakulam district. The numbers are growing.
Records said that about 2,000 vehicles are registered in the city limits a month; 85 per cent of which are private vehicles. The widening gap between the growing number of vehicles and the lack of infrastructure has turned life worse for the average Kochiite.
Geevarghese Oommen, a computer dealer in the city who rides a motor cycle to reach his office, says: “It takes at least 45 minutes for me to cover the Elamkulam -Manorama junction stretch in the morning. During rains, it exceeds one hour. Who is there to address the problems of the common man? For the last 12 years, authorities have been saying that crores of rupees had been spent on developing the Sahodaran Ayappan road. But will someone show me the results?”
Unscientific planning remains the bane of the city. Road widening projects have come to a halt in many areas, thanks to red-tapism and lack of funds. Entry points to the city are often choked with heavy vehicles. An accident or a rally is all it takes to throw normal life out of gear.
Rajeev Aravindh, a marketing professional in the city who travels at least 30 km everyday in his car, says that the Vyttila-Maradu route often provides a nightmarish experience for the travellers. “I was caught up in the snarl-up for more than one hour last week. I could not move even an inch. It took me more than two hours to reach my home at Thoppumpady. We are not even able to ensure smooth traffic of private vehicles in the city. How will the authorities then provide adequate infrastructure for projects worth crores of rupees like the Vallarpadom container terminal and Smart City?” he asks.
Work on railway over bridges and flyovers are also pending. The Edappally railway over bridge, the local residents say, will never become a reality going by its current pace.
“Traffic snarl-ups are also common in places like Aluva and Angamaly. The planners should try to come up with projects that would ease the congestion in these towns in tandem with the proposed mega projects for the city. But here nothing will happen, as individual interests always overtake the overall welfare of the public,” he says.Parallel roads are the key
Town planning experts suggest that several entry points into a city area are a must for a bustling commercial place that is growing. However, Kochi city has grown over the last decade with only a few entry points into the main commercial area.
The North and South overbridges were the only two entry points though Thevara became another one because of the Kundanoor bridges. But, the traffic mostly travel across the first two bridges.
Development of a few parallel roads to the North-South corridor and the East-West corridors will decongest the arterial roads of the city considerably, said a town planner. Thammanam-Pulleppady Road is one such that was started with a big fanfare. However, this very important infrastructure remains unfinished as the rail overbridge is not completed.
The road would decongest a lot of traffic from Banerjee Road and M.G. Road as it would be an exit and entry point from the Kakkanad side. In fact, the Master Plan by the Town Planning department calls it the CBD-IT city road.
Likewise, there are other roads like Karshaka Road, Chilavanoor Bund Road, Salim Rajan Road and Kaloor-Kadavanthara-Pottekuzhi Road which when developed, will take away a major chunk of traffic from the main arterial roads like the Sahodaran Ayyappan Road, Chittoor Road and M.G. Road.
The Greater Cochin Development Authority had quite some time ago, developed detailed project reports for at least 16 corridors in the city. Similarly, roads leading to suburban areas such as Thripunithura are most congested with peak time traffic spilling over. People’s voices have been raised to develop the Kaniyampuzha Road from Vytilla to Eroor, Thripunithura, which would provide a parallel connectivity to the main town of Thripunithura as well.
A bridge from Maradu to Thripunithura, running parallel to the iron bridge and the Petta bridge would take traffic coming from Alappuzha side to Vaikom without touching Thripunithura town. However, the route of the road continues to be disputed. Infrastructure development is basically the government’s job and land acquisition for the same needs to be done much earlier so that there are few hurdles when a project is launched, said a town planning expert. But, as the Master Plan continues to be made over several years, the local bodies do not have a document to fall back upon.