With a December 2019 deadline in mind, as wished by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has started work on barricading a 1-km stretch at three places along the route, right in the middle of the monsoon, though this is expected to inconvenience commuters and motorists in the western suburbs.Called the Metro-7 corridor, this elevated line will run from Andheri (East) to Dahisar (East) along the Western Express Highway (WEH).MMRDA officials said that the majority of the alignment falls on the west side of WEH, which has been the most pothole-ridden arterial stretch in the city.“It would have been appropriate to start the work after monsoon. Since it is Fadnavis’ vision to complete the project by December 2019, every single day is important to us. So we have started work now,” said Additional Metropolitan Commissioner Pravin Darade.He added that the mega-project would relieve traffic congestion on the WEH as nearly 70,000 passengers were expected to travel in one direction in one hour along this route. “It is equivalent to more than 50 lanes of vehicular traffic,” Darade said.He added that people in the far western suburbs were advised to start their day half an earlier than they usually did, during the period of the work.He claimed that there would be no traffic diversion during the first phase of barricading at the three places but the work would affect traffic on service roads and slip roads. The MMRDA has started the work of barricading the stretches from Hub Mall to the beginning of Aarey flyover, Saibaba Temple, Pathanwadi, to Pushpa Park and Metro Mall to Devipada. The work is likely to take at least 10 to 12 days.“After assessing the response to this phase, we will decide further barricading. The actual diversion of traffic will come into effect at a later stage. The service roads and slip roads will be used for the barricading and excavation works to minimise inconvenience to commuters. Also, we will not allow parking on such roads,” said Darade, adding, the full-fledged work would start mid-September.The work will be carried out in two shifts but the launching of girders will be strictly carried out at night. “We will also provide additional lanes to the traffic during the peak hours. The MMRDA has agreed to provide more traffic wardens to regulate the traffic,” said Milind Bharambe, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic).The BEST has agreed to provide more air-conditioned buses during the construction of the Metro-7 corridor and the Western Railway is assessing requests to run more services on the stretch.In all, 247 residential and commercial structures to be affected by the proposed Metro stations will be rehabilitated under the Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP) policy.Meanwhile, two more Metro lines — D N Nagar to Mankhurd and Wadala to Thane — are likely to get the state cabinet’s approval in the next 15 days, said an MMRDA official.Activists, meanwhile, slammed the MMRDA for starting the work in the middle of the monsoon. “The MMRDA is talking about the chief minister’s vision. Don’t we, Mumbaikars, have a vision for the city? We want pothole-free roads. If they are hurrying, it is going to inconvenience the Mumbaikars who are paying taxes. What is more important — the CM’s vision or the Mumbaikars’ comfort?” said Shyama Kulkarni of Apna Mumbai Abhiyaan, a coalition of 40 NGOs advocating an underground Metro rail line.
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