Motorists view Nitin Gadkari’s beacon of hope on toll nakas with mixed feelings

Shashank Rao Sweety AdimulamUpdated: Tuesday, March 22, 2022, 11:33 PM IST
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New Delhi: Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari speaks in the Lok Sabha during the second part of Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Tuesday, March 22, 2022. | (SANSAD TV/PTI Photo)

Mumbai: While motorists in the city may widely disagree on the rules of the road in the thick of locomotion, they will concur on one point – that it would be a miracle if they were able to successfully pass all the toll nakas in Mumbai without stopping. Just one glimpse of the traffic mess in evidence every day is enough to make one dread the journey to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, traversing the five toll nakas of Dahisar, Vashi, Airoli, Mulund LBS Marg and the Mulund Eastern Express Highway. But the announcement made by Union Minister of Road and Transport, Nitin Gadkari, on Tuesday, holds out the promise of respite in future.

Gadkari said, there would only be one toll plaza within a distance of 60 kilometres and a second toll plaza within that distance would be removed and shut down in the next three months. Further, he announced that the government would provide passes to local residents with Aadhaar cards who reside near toll plazas.

This has elicited mixed reactions from Mumbaikars who regularly commute via these toll nakas and have an unfailingly gruelling experience every single time. “The government should bring in a system wherein these passes can be linked with the Aadhar cards of all those residing in a 3-5km radius of the toll naka. There is also a need for efficient scanners which will certainly save time. Eliminating smaller toll plazas will not reduce congestion on vital toll plazas,” observed Pramod Darji, a resident of Dahisar and member of an NGO called Mission Impossible, which has been fighting for the cause of improving the traffic situation in Dahisar.

Mumbaikars have been regularly grumbling about the poor, inefficient system at Dahisar toll naka, which takes an average of 15-20 minutes to cross. There are long queues of vehicles, with motorists juggling brake and clutch and constantly honking, trying to overtake and cross the toll plaza. In peak hours (mornings and evenings), it takes more than 30-45 minutes to overcome traffic snarls.

“To eliminate the problem at Dahisar toll plaza, a better option would be to shift it right up to the Fountain Hotel Junction. However, government authorities claim that beyond the Dahisar toll plaza, it is the national highway,” said Gopal Jhaveri who has been championing the cause of easing traffic at Dahisar through a campaign called the ‘Road March’. Locals are also proposing an alternate road from N L Complex, which could go all the way to Mira-Bhayandar.

The ongoing metro work, poor condition of the existing roads and manual screening of FASTag stickers on vehicles are also the reasons for traffic jams, waste of precious time and fuel for regular users of this toll plaza. Commuters have time again aired their grievances on social media but to date, the problem persists.

M Pawar, who works in a private company and stays just half a kilometre away from the Dahisar toll naka, has to waste almost half-an-hour on a two-wheeler to reach the toll naka junction because of massive traffic jams and in emergencies like fires and ambulances coming through, the situation is exacerbated. In September 2021, Suburban Guardian Minister Aaditya Thackeray also visited the Dahisar toll plaza and conducted a review.

As per the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), nearly four lakh vehicles pass through the Dahisar toll plaza from both directions daily. In fact, the Mulund and Dahisar toll plazas are the busiest of the five entry points to Mumbai. Since the Dahisar toll is connected to the national highways of Gujarat and other states, commercial container traffic is enormous, adding to traffic woes.

MSRDC Chief General Manager (Tolls) Kamlakar Phand said, “The statement pertains to National Highway toll nakas. However, if there is any official order wherein state toll nakas also need to be involved, it will be done. No official order to this effect has yet been received, so it is too early to comment at this point of time.”

Popatrao Kadam, who resides near the Mulund toll naka, said, “It is a great initiative that Nitin Gadkari has announced. However, the state government of Maharashtra should also come up with certain provisions for people residing near toll plaza. We live near Mulund toll naka but however, we have to pay the toll. Apart from this, we face a severe traffic problem, as there is no separate lane for those living within two kilometres of the toll plaza and no separate road.”

What Gadkari said

There will be only one toll plaza within a distance of 60km.

A second toll plaza within that distance will be removed and shut down in the next three months.

Passes will be provided to locals with Aadhaar cards residing near toll plazas.

India will have roads like those in America by the end of 2024 and its prosperity is linked to its roads.

American roads are not good because America is rich but America is rich because American roads are good.

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