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Vol. XXXII No. 5, June 16-30, 2022

Metro work slows down city traffic

-- by A Special Correspondent

Commuters are navigating myriad traffic diversions in view of CMRL’s metro rail work as part of the 118.9km phase 2 project that involves the construction of underground and elevated lines. Roads in many localities including Marina Beach, Panagal Park and the Boat Club-Chamiers Road have been barricaded. New traffic rules have also obliged heavy vehicles including MTC buses on the route from Vadapalani to Porur to turn left at the Arcot Road-Lakshmi Nagar 40 ft. junction and proceed via 40 ft. Road, 3rd Cross Street, 1st Main Road and Mount Poonamallee Avadi road to reach Porur. The street connecting Lakshmi Nagar 40 ft. Road to 1st Main Road has been made one way. Barricades have also appeared in areas like Vadapalani, Valasaravakkam, Kodambakkam and Royapettah, leaving only a narrow lane for vehicles to pass through. In quotes to the media, CMRL officials have confirmed that the new barricades along the elevated corridor will remain in place until as late as December 2025 and for the underground section, until December 2026, by which time phase 2 of Metro is expected to be ready.

Regular commuters and motorists are disappointed by the arrangements, for they feel that contrary to ensuring a smooth flow of traffic during construction, it has only worsened the situation in the affected areas. Confusion is reported to prevail as to which roads are now one-way and which two-ways, making for chaos as vehicles ply the streets from all sides. It is claimed that there is a higher incidence of traffic accidents, including that of motorists skidding on the sand from mounds heaped by the roadside. Residential streets are suddenly choked with traffic with people seeking shorter, less cumbersome routes. There is reported to be a lack of traffic police at affected junctions, as well. In fact, according to a piece in the Times of India, vehicles move at nearly 10 kmph near the Royapettah hospital during morning and evening peak hours.

CMRL officials say that the plans were made to mitigate traffic snarls during the period of metro work. In a quote to the Times of India, a metro official said, “This time after studying the traffic flow, plans for traffic management were drawn up by experts and submitted to the traffic police, who have approved. We have provided the required lights, signages and traffic marshals to manage the traffic movement.” CMRL officials also said that traffic management across the corridor 5 route from Madhavaram and Sholinganallur via Koyambedu, Alandur and Puzhuthivakkam poses the greatest challenge among the 3 corridors of phase 2 construction.

It is unarguable that the metro works are crucial for social welfare in the long run, for they provide the people with better public transport facilities. However, it is equally important to formulate efficient traffic management strategies to reduce inconvenience to commuters, especially considering the long tenure of the project. The traffic diversions that have been conceived must be implemented along with other rules that guide vehicular movement in as smooth a manner as possible. For one, there must be greater proactiveness in implementing lane discipline. Vehicles create traffic jams when they congest the streets with commuters either confused about the new rules or purposefully ignorant of them and a lack of traffic police at affected junctions invites daredevils to speed and dangerously weave through waiting vehicles, increasing the risk of accidents. Further, pedestrian footpaths – where they are functional — are affected as well with motorists attempting to use them to cut through the traffic.

Along with the stringent implementation of traffic discipline, there must be more effort to educate and guide commuters through the new rules. Changes to existing one-ways and two-ways must be clearly announced and awareness created on the alternate routes that commuters can take. Heavy vehicles must be diverted through separate lanes from regular vehicular traffic. Residential streets that will pick up a portion of the strain must also be alerted in advance so that the populace is braced to meet the change.

As Sivasubramaniam Jayaraman of the ITDP points out in a quote to the media, the state government must devise a long-term plan to mitigate traffic woes so that the people do not suffer when big development projects are implemented even whilst ensuring that the projects are completed on time.

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