A Note on: Haji Ali to Wilson College Viaduct over Pedder Road
March 30, 2006
With the development of South Mumbai historically and further impetus given by development of Nariman Point and Cuffe Parade areas in the 1980s, the north south vehicular traffic has been on the rise. Kemp's corner flyover came about in the sixties and eased the traffic congestion at that junction at that time. At that point of time, Pedder Road still had bungalows and very few high-rise buildings. Even in those days, it has been nightmarish task for the Traffic Police to regulate the flow and the option of making Pedder Road as a one-way with contra flow lane during peak hours has been considered time to time. It has been considered even in the current times.
It is a known fact that presently Pedder Road is pretty much beyond its the capacity during peak hours and this is well reflected by the average peak hour speed of 17.8 kmph on Pedder Road with efficient regulation of traffic. It is worse on Tardeo stretch with speed dropping to 13.24 kmph. Constantly looking at the problems associated with the One-way with single contra flow lane Pedder Road alternative over the years and seeing no solutions, the proposal of the viaduct was seen as a alternative by the Traffic Police.
The Reversible one-way traffic on Pedder Road has been studied as an alternative to the viaduct over Pedder Road and its effect on the Tardeo route where the increase in traffic during the two peak the hours has been arrived at 142% and 135 % respectively, reducing the speed to about 5 to 7 kmph. This reduction from existing 13.24 kmph is not acceptable from not only the increased pollution point of view but the problem it would pose for a vehicle on Cumballa Hill which has over shot its destination or needs to go in opposite direction to the one-way flow - it would have to go via Tardeo and cover a distance of 3.5 km at optimistic 7 kmph - taking minimum half an hour. The adverse effect this slow moving traffic on the HA-WC via Tardeo would have on the traffic in other directions and routes at Nana's Chowk (six roads junction) and Tardeo (six roads junction) and its repercussions in the interiors such as Byculla and Lamington Road can very well be imagined. In fact, some means must be found even now by which the speed on the Tardeo road is improved to prevent deteriorating pollution levels.
Haji Ali Wilson College Viaduct is an outcome of the need thus observed and the initial route considered was over Tardeo. Due to narrowness of the road at certain points on Tardeo route, providing viaduct over Tardeo route entailed twin layers of the viaduct. More importantly, the traffic which today flows over Pedder Road, would have got fully diverted on the Tardeo Road and cause increase in Noise and Air pollution there in addition to that caused by narrowing down of Tardeo route at road level which would continue to carry the current traffic. Obviously slowing down of this traffic also meant addition to noise and air Pollution. This is unacceptable to any right thinking planner. Unfortunately it was a protest by the residents on the Tardeo route that forced a study of the problem associated by constructing a viaduct over Tardeo route. This study was entrusted to IIT Bombay which recommended that the viaduct route be over Pedder Road, causing Pedder Road residents to get a wrong notion that whose so ever's protest voice was louder and influential, their voice would be heard.
The Haji Ali - Wilson College Viaduct over Pedder Road is an outcome of the study carried out by Transportation Systems Engineering Group of Civil Engineering Department of IIT Bombay under Prof S L Dhingra. The Environmental Impact Assessment was carried out by Prof Ms R S Patil of Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering at IIT Bombay. Together it forms the report. Though the study was specifically in regard to the then proposed Viaduct over Tardeo, the statement mentioned in passing needs the most urgent attention by the Government, namely "... nothing can beat a well designed mass transit system for such a mega city....".
The Dhingra Committee has carried out studies of five scenarios -
(1) As it is i.e. without flyovers or viaducts
(2) with HA-WC Viaduct over Tardeo,
(3) with HA-WC Viaduct over Pedder Road,
(4) with HA-WC Viaduct over both, Tardeo and Pedder Road and
(5) Flyovers over three Junctions on Tardeo route.
In its conclusion the most suitable solution, from among the five scenarios, is the HA-WC Viaduct over Pedder Road. The other options give worse conditions for Pedder Road, though only marginally for scenarios 2 and 4. However, the other options give much worse condition to the Tardeo route. Holistically, Viaduct over Pedder Road is logical option.
Without getting too much into details, it should suffice to know that 40% of the traffic coming to HA on Lala Lajpat Rai Marg (Hornby Vellard) is through traffic, i.e. they go beyond Wilson College. This also means that 60% is not through, of which some take the Tardeo route to get dispersed in the interior areas of Bombay Central-Byculla and Nana's Chowk-Lamington Road, some towards Bhulabhai Desai (Warden) Road, some Napeansea Road-Malabar Hill, some within the lanes off Pedder Road onCumballa Hill and some to Gamdevi-Babulnath areas.
What is important to know from Pedder Road point of view is that 95% of the through traffic at Lala Lajpat Rai Road at HA goes via Pedder Road and only 5% of the through traffic takes the Tardeo route. The figures specifically and only for Pedder Road does not appear to be available from the report. However it must be understood that the traffic on to Pedder Road from Lala Lajpat Rai Road is supplemented by the traffic coming from Race Course (Khadye Marg), Tardeo and Bhulabhai Desai Road, some of these are through too. It is only a conjecture on my part when I say that 80% of the traffic on Pedder Road is through and 20% for Cumballa Hill, Napeansea Road-Malabar Hill and Gamdevi-Babulnath etc. This can be verified quite quickly and easily to put aside one of the basis of controversy. I understand that this data is already available from Dar Consultants, the Project Consultants for this Viaduct.
The Dhingra Committee Study was for Three lane Viaduct over Pedder Road, with Two way movement choice available to the traffic police. With through traffic thus segregated and moving unhindered, the users of Pedder Road for going to Cumballa Hill, Gamdevi-Babulanth, Napeansea Road-Malabar Hill as well as southern side of Bhulabhai Desai Road will have plenty of room on Pedder Road. The question that needs to be raised is whether there will be any adverse situation arising if a two lane Viaduct is provided. My judgment is that it will not, as the through traffic is out of the way unhindered and the congestion causing points would have got eliminated by the Viaduct. Two lane viaduct has an advantage that one gets 1.75m additional open space between the buildings and the Viaduct.
If three lanes of two way (2 peak direction + 1 off peak direction) are provided, then the through traffic in both directions get off the Pedder Road on to the viaduct and to that extent the already reduced traffic on the Pedder Road gets further reduced. Also that the three lane peak direction arrangement would be able cope up with the growth of traffic for quite some time. Thus, for more or less same width of the road blocked by the central pillar, a three lane viaduct provides an extra fast lane.
There is no doubt that the viaduct will be running quite close to certain establishments thereby the apprehensions of increased noise levels and loss of privacy become valid specifically to these establishments; but these could be tackled and reasonably overcome by suitably providing noise absorbing details and some privacy shields. It must be understood that even at the slowest speed at which vehicles are to be moving on the viaduct, privacy cannot be considered as being violated even if the privacy shields are not provided.
With adequate space between the edge of the viaduct and building lines, tunneling effect below the flyover will not occur. There are a few trees which unfortunately will have to be trimmed, but there are practically no trees on Pedder Road that come into this category and the tunneling effect from tree canopy on Pedder Road will not occur. However, on Babulnath Road over a short stretch, trees will have to be trimmed for constructing the viaduct and these trimmed trees will again pose no threat by entrapping polluted air within its canopy.
It must be borne in mind that if the trees are needed to be cut to accommodate three lanes, then only two lanes viaduct should be adopted. At no count four lane viaduct should be considered as it would most definitely need cutting of trees as well as reduce the gap between the buildings and the viaduct edge by as much as 1.75 m.
Yes, there is room to redesign the structural system so that the existing number of lanes at the road level get reduced only by one lane and not two as it appears to be happening with 2 m taken up by the central column.
Restriction of Buses Plying on Viaduct and Fire Fighting
It is wrongly getting understood that buses cannot ply on the flyovers. The flyovers are generally constructed at road junctions on major roads and the bus stops are usually at suitable convenient walking distance from such the junctions. These bus stops are where usually significant number of passengers alight or board. Therefore the stage buses do not ply on the fly overs. The flyovers are designed to Class A loading of IRC which is of the loading classification That includes trucks and tankers too. Therefore a Fire Tender is also plyable on a flyover. Viaduct is also designed for the loads that a flyover is designed for and is capable of taking the buses, trucks, tankers or fire tenders etc. Since the viaduct is catering to through traffic, any bus that does not need to halt the full distance of the viaduct can very well travel on the viaduct. There is no restriction on that.
The conceptual design includes meeting the need of traffic flow, security concerns, disaster mitigation and management etc. The conceptual design is to be approved by the respective operating authorities; for example, the traffic police will approve it for flow regulation, the Municipal Storm Drain department for draining of rain water into sewers, the fire department for fire fighting and mitigation of disasters.
The clear height at the bottom of the viaduct as per the IRC Standards is 5.5 M from the road surface below. This clear height caters to all standard vehicles conforming to sizes given in the IRC. Only special vehicles for transporting over sized equipment need non standard clearances and these are not meant to be on normal urban roads. Therefore, for the given standard vehicles, inclusive of the double decker buses as well as fire tender, normal clearance o 5.5 M is adequate. Thus the fire tenders can pass under the viaduct as well as travel over it. Going by the J J Hospital Viaduct experience, the height of the underside was provided more than the standard 5.5 M at the behest of Fire Department. For the Viaduct over Pedder Road, this higher height has been considered at the conceptual stage itself. When the detailed design is done, the final approval of the Fire Department will have to be taken with specific requirements of the local conditions taken into consideration. Since the conceptual stage does consider the need of Fire Fighting, it is most likely to get clearance from the fire department without any further changes sought by them.
There are other considerations that must be remembered. The first one is that the past record of fire on the buildings on Pedder Road. The Anand Darshan fire of April 2002 was perhaps the first major one in more than 50 years that needed the fire brigade to fight it over a few hours. That still does not mean that the system need not be designed to fight fire. Therefore, if due consideration is given to the fire fighting facility statutorily to be provided in every building and the fire escape staircases duly provided and kept clear of any obstructions in accordance with requirements of Fire Department and the all around building setbacks provided and kept clear as per requirements, Fire Tenders can access any part of the building on fire or the neighbouring building as well as the public road to fight the fire as well to assist in evacuation of the building.
In fact, if at all there is fire in a building on or off Pedder Road, the better flowing traffic would assist the fire tender to reach the spot quickly, either on the viaduct or beneath it and the raised elevation of the viaduct would assist in fire fighting from the road level etc. Since due considerations have been given to the fire fighting aspect at the outset, there is no need for the apprehensions which some of the residents of Pedder Road seem to be having. Also, for a fire occurring even as often as once in five years, diverting the traffic via other routes during the fire fighting period is not such a hardship to the residents. Actually it is the rest of the through traffic which gets affected. However, a quickly reached fire brigade means a shorter duration of fire fighting and lesser loss of life and property.
Development in South Mumbai
Unless there is a hidden agenda of the Government of Maharashtra of making the A Ward, especially the Nariman Point area into a 'Manhattan' with FSI of 10 plus, the proposed three lane Viaduct over Pedder Road should suffice for the road traffic for the years to come and in fact will render the Western Freeway Sea Link (WFSL) between Worli and Nariman Point a wasteful investment. The stated Rs 1800 Crore for that, plus about Rs 700 Crore of Bandra Worli Sea Link (BWSL) Project could be diverted to a Rapid Mass Transit System instead and that would benefit not only the present 60 lac suburban railway commuters, but also all the Road users, inclusive of those using Private Cars, Taxis and Buses by attracting substantial number of car users to Rapid Transit System.
Points of Apprehensions
The general perception of Pedder Road residents opposed to the viaduct is that Pedder Road is not the bottleneck; bottleneck points are at Babulnath, RTI Junction, Mahalaxmi Temple and Haji Ali. However, with cars taking turns, including left turns, at several points along the Pedder Road or coming out of these lanes and also the taxis constantly halting on Pedder Road to pickup or drop off passengers at various commercial establishments, the main traffic on the road is significantly slowed down. This is also a form of bottleneck which is sought to be averted by the viaduct.
It is also sighted by some that when the traffic moves slowly on Marine Drive, how can the viaduct over Pedder Road remove this 'bottleneck'. The fact is that the south bound traffic in the morning peak hour moves speedily on Marine Drive while there is a significant slowing down in the evening peak hour of north bound traffic. The whole stretch between Chowpatty and Haji Ali acts as a near bottleneck. The viaduct seeks to address this problem.
It should also be understood that in a system where there are several bottle necks, removal of some does not make the system devoid of bottlenecks. Efficiency lies in removal of all the bottlenecks. The bottlenecks from Haji Ali to Chowpatty seem to be the last one at present on this route and the Viaduct would remove this bottleneck.
Pilingup of south bound vehicles during evening peak hour
South bound vehicles pileup during the evening peak hours at the side of Kemp's Corner flyover which block the traffic going over the flyover onto Patkar Marg. This is because of the number of vehicles taking the route under the present Kemp's Corner Flyover to go to Napeansea Road-Malabar Hill and Nana's Chowk-Lamington Road and southern side of Bhulabhai Desai Road has increased over time. The narrow access on the side of this flyover is inadequate to take the growing vehicle numbers taking this route. The proposed viaduct does not address this problem.
It is being suggested herein that just as a ramp has been provided at Race Course and Bhulabhai Desai Road, a ramp be provided at RTI junction taking it across the road junction with Pandita Ramabai Road, much of the traffic desirous of going to Opera House-Lamington Road area will take the proposed flyover, allowing the Road Level Pedder Road further free from this traffic With easier flow on Babulnath at road level brought about by the viaduct, those desirous of going to Malabar Hill may opt for the Walkeshwar Road to Napeansea Road and address the pilingup of vehicles to significant extent.
As regard the HA-WC Viaduct is concerned, it should go upto the Bal Bhavan and then descend to road level near the aquarium, leaving free movement for the traffic from Opera House side going towards Walkeshwar or Babulnath.
Congestion on Pedder Road below the Viaduct: The Dhingra Committee Report of May 2000 states and compares the Volume to Capacity Ratios. The V/C ratios existing and projected are (0.69, 0.71, 0.82) for the years (Yr 2000, Yr 2003, Yr 2011) at Prabhu Chowk (Cadbury) the entry point to Pedder Road. While at some other the three points on Pedder Road the V/C ratios are projected to be (0.64, 0.54 and 0.62) in 2011 if no viaduct is provided, at the same locations with the viaduct provided these ratios would be respectively (0.21, 0.18 and 0.23). It is obvious that there is a significant drop from without to with viaduct, meaning whereby that congestion on the Pedder road comes down considerably. The corresponding figures in 2003 are (0.61, 0.62, 0.58) and (0.2, 0.14, 0.20), meaning that the V/C ratios marginally deteriorate between 2003 and 2011. These are the conditions on the 'narrowed down' Pedder Road after the viaduct is in place. The traffic on the viaduct is through and will not affect the flow as the viaduct ends are to merge with the existing Roads of Lala Lajpat Rai Road and Netaji Subhash Road (Marine Drive).
Flyovers only shift traffic bottlenecks: Since the the Lala Lajpat Rai Road and the Netaji Subhash Road are the Northern and Southern ends of the viaduct and both these roads per se are not by themselves bottlenecks and all other bottle necks beyond these roads seem to have been attended to already, 'flyovers only shift traffic bottlenecks' is only an otherwise valid statement that is rendered invalid here by having removed all other bottlenecks beforehand.
Slow moving traffic pollute more: Since major traffic on Pedder Road will be moving at near optimum speeds on the viaduct and that on the road level at faster speed than at present due to reduced congestion, the question of extra exhaust due to supposedly slowing down of traffic does not arise.
Viaduct over Pedder Road will become redundant on completion of WFSL Project: There is an argument that the Western Freeway Sea Link from Worli to Nariman Point may render the HA-WC Viaduct redundant. The question to be asked is whether we spend Rs 2500 Crores on the WFSL and BWSL at all if that is the case. This answer can be sought only after making a traffic study after the HA-WC Viaduct is in use for a year. With usage pattern changing after the JJ Viaduct and HA-WC Viaducts in place and possibly by then the improvements in suburban railway services (MUTP) as well as further developments in rapid mass transit systems like Sky Bus and improved bus services through High Capacity Bus Systems, it may come about that the WFSL+BWSL may not be worth proceeding with. So the question of redundancy will not arise so long as there is a demand for MRTS from the citizens and the government cares to oblige.
Cost Comparisons: Approximately the costs should come to, at the rate of Rs 10 Cr per lane per km, for a 4 km run, Rs 120 Crores for a three lane viaduct or Rs 80 Crores for two lane viaduct. Whichever it is, it definitely is much lower than the Rs 1800 crores of WFSL Project and also allows funds allocation to Public Transport or the Mass Rapid Transit Systems (MRTS). The sea link costs about Rs 15 Cr per lane per km.
The sharp turns at Babulnath, RTI and Mahalaxmi junctions would slow down traffic: Although the speed drops to about 22 kmph at the Babulnath, RTI and Mahalaxmi Junctions, the throughput of number of vehicles passing in an hour still remains more or less the same at 22 kmph as it would at 45 kmph and will not cause pilingup of vehicles (please note moving and not stationary) beyond a certain finite length. This is definitely significantly better than the case where the engines are idling at the signals or starting if switched off and cause greater air and noise pollution affecting the Policemen on duty as well as the residents and shops at the junctions.
Pollution level will be above acceptable limits: It is a known fact that the existing pollution levels will come down although they would still be not within the acceptable limits even after the viaduct is in use. However, without the flyover these figures are expected to worsen with passage of time unless there is a curb on car flow into the city and via Pedder Road.
Beyond Pedder Road Viaduct:
Improve the Mass Rapid Transit System, bring down the 14 persons per square meter crowd density in the suburban trains to about 8 or 9 and have another MRTS that has a crowd density of 5 or 6 and you will get a shift from personal driving to using publc transport. There is no need for putting any restriction on citizens owning cars or their movement. This will cater to the pressing need of 60,00,000 rail commuters and 5,00,000 car users Holistically speaking, following should be done:
(1) Develop Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) Areas and put a halt for further development of south Mumbai including Nariman Point area and other areas of A, B, C, D and E wards which is possible by way of preventing any increased FSI for what ever reason and prevent further construction of office buildings or residences etc.
(2) Build HA-WC Viaduct of 3 Lanes but upto Charni Road-Aquarium on Marine Drive end and add a ramp at RTI Junction
(3) Invest in MRTS like Sky Bus and HCBS and
(4) Not to construct the proposed 8 lane Worli Nariman Point Western Freeway Sea Link and if necessary not to proceed further on the Bandra Worli Sea Link either.
(5) Carry out traffic pattern study after the HA-WC Viaduct is in use, and if found that the sealink would be useful, construct a Road cum Rail or Sky Bus Sea Link, taking the Sky Bus upto Bandra Kurla Complex, the two Airport Terminals along with the HCBS and reduce the 8 lane freeway to 4 lane freeway. On the Sky Bus the ride from Cuffe Parade to BKC should be 15 minutes. At the southern end, take it across the harbour to the main land where another airport is planned!
But for now Get on with the Haji Ali Charni Road Viaduct.