Plan to augment Mum-Pune Expressway clears one hurdle

Mumbai : The state government’s plan to augment the capacity of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway by constructing two tunnels and a new bridge has got an impetus with the Irrigation Department giving its go-ahead for the 9.9-km-long missing link that will pass 180 meters below Lonavala Lake.

The augmentation plan is to have 14-lane connectivity including six lanes of NH4 and eight lanes of the expressway. The plan also envisages constructing a bypass between Khopoli and Sinhgad Institute to reduce the distance and ensure faster travel between the two cities.

“The underground tunnel, which is part of the bypass, has got a clearance from the Irrigation Department. We will now approach the cabinet sub-committee for infrastructure for final clearance and carry out the augmentation,” said Radheshyam Mopalwar, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation.

MSRDC, however, has not got the approval from the Ministry of Environment and Forests yet.

At present, vehicles from the expressway and the old highway converge onto a six-lane stretch between Khopoli and Khandala, which significantly add to the traffic congestion.

“With the augmentation of lanes and the construction of the tunnel and an elevated bridge between Khopoli and Sinhgad, the distance will be shortened by 6 km and travel time will reduce. Overall the journey duration will be reduced by 25 minutes,” Mopalwar said.

The augmentation plan was first mooted by the previous government in 2011-12 but never took off. As a result, the project cost has increased from Rs 4,000 crore to Rs 7,000 crore.

According to Mopalwar, the cost recovery of the project will be done through toll collection. “Around 60% of the project cost will be recovered through toll while for the balance we will explore other options. The toll concession period will have to be extended till 2030,” he said.

The project will be implemented on BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) model and construction is expected to take around four to five years after the invitation of bids.

Swapnil Rawal

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