Ring roads have Bangalore Development Authority going round in circles

Building roads to handle excess traffic is like loosening one's belt to fight obesity. The proposed Peripheral Ring Road manifests this logic precisely, and could take off once it receives Cabinet approval. The 10-lane, elevated road that the BDA has planned will not only cost the city its green cover and dip into its coffers, but will cause more harm than good unless development is stopped on land surrounding it. Why should Bengalureans deal with years of inconvenience for a road we didn’t want in the first place and which isn’t likely to provide anything more than a band-aid solution, asks Nikhil Gangadhar 

As Bengaluru wrestles with its traffic troubles , the government comes out with one solution after another, some good and others not so good. Its recent proposal for an elevated corridor to ease traffic in the city was perceived as not so good and met with strong public  opposition, forcing it to change track. And now the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) has decided to bring back the elevated Peripheral Ring Road (PRR), that has been on the backburner for a decade owing  to some technical and financial constraints.

The project could take off once it receives Cabinet approval. The idea is to prevent vehicles heading for destinations outside the city from entering it and adding to the congestion on its roads. The 66 km long PRR is expected to connect Hosur and Tumakuru Road via the Ballari and Old Madras roads and bear the load of all vehicles, which would otherwise have criss-crossed the city to reach their destinations. The PRR will be connected to the NICE Expressway as well to ensure that the vehicles can continue on their journey without having to enter Bengaluru.

BDA engineers, who are all gung-ho about the project, believe it has a lot of potential to help Bengalureans coping with heavy traffic every day of the week. " The plan is still in the process of being developed. The preliminary designs have been worked on and once we get the approval, the detailed design and report will be prepared and a tender floated," they say.

A senior BDA engineer explains that while an eight-lane PRR was planned to begin with,  it  had to be given up due to space constraints and land acquisition problems. " Now, we are planning an elevated way to  bring down the cost by 30 per cent. We are still discussing the number of lanes for the PRR.  Considering the volume of traffic  it could be 20 lane (10 above and 10 below). But we will have to check the feasibility report before taking a decision," he adds. Revealing that the  Metro Rail could run alongside it, he says a dedicated space has already been allotted for it. Best of all, the new design will require limited land acquisition, making it much more feasible, according to him. "We believe the  PRR could cost between Rs 13,000 and 14,000 crore to build. Of this Rs 8,000 to Rs 9,000 crore will go towards land acquisition and the remaining for construction," adds the engineer.

traffic

A BDA officer says it could take at least three years to complete the PRR. "The developer of the PRR may be allowed to collect a user fee from motorists for a certain period and the land around it will be kept free for later expansion. No commercial activity will be allowed alongside it," he promises.  The officer, however, hastens to add that the entire project is still at a preliminary stage and the BDA is working on various designs and looking for technical advice from both government and private agencies before finalising it.

‘PRR, elevated corridor a waste of time, money’
While the government continues to  put its faith in projects like the Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) to ease traffic conditions in the city, more and more  people and citizen groups are now fast getting allergic to elevated corridors, flyovers, underpasses and the like, seeing them as a threat to its already vanishing green cover. They would rather have suburban trains and better Metro Rail connectivity to take traffic off the roads. The proposed Peripheral Ring Road project doesn’t have too many backers as Bengalureans argue there is no guaranteeing that vehicles taking it will not enter the city on their way to other destinations.  Says Mr Shankar Kumar, a logistics service provider , “There is no clarity on the PRR although the BDA claims that heavy vehicles using it will not need to enter the city. But  how many heavy vehicles enter the city for delivering goods or picking up material even now?  The government needs to stop spending money on these projects and start implementing better ideas to ease traffic congestion.” Mr Kumar argues that even if  the PRR is built it will get congested  within two years going by the present growth in traffic volume. “It will be of use only if  it doesn’t allow even one heavy vehicle  to enter the city. But will it be able to?” he asks doubtfully. Mr Sumit Narayanaswamy, a private road traffic expert, also believes that  no matter how many elevated corridors the city has, it will need  more space as the number of vehicles on its roads is increasing at an alarming rate. “I suggest the government give up on such projects and not to waste time and money them. It should rather focus on suburban trains and Metro connectivity. We need to come up with better solutions and not continue to build new infrastructure,” he stresses. Ms Meenakshi Ganapathi, a tax consultant, is worried that building new infrastructure  will only threaten the environment and the future of the city. “We are sure that if the PRR is approved , thousands of trees will be chopped, adding to the already depleting green cover. There are various solutions to ease  traffic congestion in the city which are feasible, but the government is not willing to accept them. If  suburban trains are introduced people will love to use them and gradually the number of vehicles on the roads will decrease,” she suggests. Another solution could be to allow heavy vehicles into the city only between 12 midnight and  4 am , in her view. “We don’t need a  PRR for this. But the government does not want to ideate and try out other solutions,” she regrets.

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