With Christmas descending on a Friday this year, a weekend getaway was too good a temptation to resist, it would appear, considering the traffic snarls in parts of the city and on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway on Friday morning.
The telltale signs were visible on Thursday evening itself: the bumper to bumper traffic, incessant honking and unending traffic snarls at major arterial roads and city exit points. The highway police said the rush to get out of the city started on Thursday evening itself and had become a scramble the following morning; few, it seemed relished the prospect of being cooped up indoors on the extended week end.
Traffic chaos on the expressway on Saturday and Sunday is now merely a matter of academic discussion. “The Christmas holiday, clubbed with the weekend, resulted in a large number of vehicles hitting the road,” said Subhash Pujari, assistant police inspector, state highway traffic.
New Year too will fall on a Friday and people already have their plans in place, heading off to Khandala, Lonavala, Pune or farther, to Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani, for a much needed break in times of pandemic. Others are visiting their native villages in Kolhapur, Satara, and Ratnagiri, as is the annual ritual.
There was a major traffic problem on Friday at the Khalapur toll plaza, the first one, as one drives towards Lonavla and Pune, with a serpentine line of vehicles disappearing into the horizon.
Since there is a curfew from 11pm to 6am, many who were unable to leave the city early enough on Thursday, decided to do so on Friday morning. “As many people left at the same time from Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, and other places, this resulted in chaos at the toll plaza,” said Pujari. This also resulted in the slowing down of traffic at most stretches on the expressway. “The problem was only in the Mumbai-Pune lane, traffic in other lanes was smooth,” he added.
Traffic puts brakes on festive cheer
In Mumbai there were major traffic snarls across the city on Friday evening, resulting in backlog and slowdown on the Western Express Highway (WEH), the Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road, the LBS Marg, the Eastern Express Highway (EEH), SV Road and Link Road. Police said the long weekend brought out festive shoppers on the roads and with dusk setting in, there was a scramble to get home before night curfew at 11pm..
Traffic snarls were reported mainly at SV Road and Link Road on the Andheri-Mahim stretch, while slow moving traffic was seen on the WEH and EEH, despite Friday being a holiday. The slowdown on the stretch from Malad to Khar resulted in a delay of at least 40 minutes, while on the New Link Road in the western parts of the city, there was a delay of over 15 minutes.
The scene on EEH was no different. A traffic officer said there was heavy slow moving traffic on EEH at the Mulund toll naka heading towards Thane, with many motorists heading out of the city. Overall, major congestion, stalling movement by at least 10 minutes across the city put the brakes on holiday cheer, as people had either stepped out for a stroll or to offer prayers on Christmas.