State of ‘smart roads’ has residents and motorists worried
Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa’s inspection of a few roads developed by Bengaluru Smart City Ltd. (BSCL) on Saturday did little to convince residents and motorists that projects will be completed any time soon. Activists and residents pointed out that he only inspected roads where work had been completed while many thoroughfares in the Central Business District remain dug up, with work progressing at a snail’s pace.
The BSCL has taken up 43 different works at a total cost of ₹1,039 crore, which includes the development of 36 roads under TenderSURE norms, K.R. Market junction improvement, integrated mobility and redevelopment of Shivajinagar Bus Terminal and the redevelopment of Cubbon Park.
Of the roads taken up for development under TenderSURE, work is in progress on a majority of stretches. Mr. Yediyurappa stated that they will be completed by June 2021. However, citizens are sceptical, given the progress so far, especially on Miller’s Road, Infantry Road, Queen’s Road and Palace Road.
The slow progress in the Central Business District has greatly inconvenienced pedestrians, as footpaths have either been dug up or filled with debris. Pedestrians have to jostle for space with vehicles that have to ply on a reduced carriageway riddled with potholes, with construction material and debris dumped along the sides.
Devendra G.R., an autorickshaw driver, said the roads are so bad that he is constantly spending money on repairing and replacing worn-out parts.
A scrap dealer, who has a shop on Miller’s Road, said his health has deteriorated. “We are exposed to a lot of dust, as one side of the road has been dug up. Even a mask doesn’t seem to be helping. I am always tired and prone to headaches.”
Motorists said that if they could avoid CBD, they would. “On some roads, such as Infantry Road and Queen’s Road, both sides have been dug up. The carriageway of roads has reduced by almost half, increasing my commute time,” said Krishna Gowda, who commutes from Nagasandra to Infantry Road.
Allaying concerns about the delay in completing the works, BSCL Managing Director Rajendra Cholan claimed that, over the past three months, all the inter-departmental issues had been ironed out. BSCL had prepared a micro plan, and set realistic deadlines.
He attributed the slow progress to delays in getting police permission and shifting of utilities. “These issues have now been sorted out and work is progressing at a brisk pace,” he maintained and expressed confidence of some works being completed ahead of their deadline.
Mounting dread in commercial hubs
Citizens have come to dread work being taken up on Avenue Road, S.J.P. Road and Jumma Masjid Road, which are located in some of the most congested parts of Bengaluru. Traders in these commercial hubs are looking to move to other parts of the city.
Venkatesh Babu, who until recently was president of the Bengaluru Jewellers’ Association, said that it is important that deadlines be met. “Traders, especially those with shops on the main road, are already looking to shift to other areas in anticipation of a drop in business. Jewellers, especially, are worried, as even shifting is a difficult prospect, given their inventory,” he said.
Concurring, J. Roopchand Kumar, an accountant whose office is on Jumma Masjid Road, said that unless work is planned properly, congestion is going to worsen in the area where lack of parking is already a problem.
Rahul Goyal B.K., secretary of Karnataka Hardware and Allied Merchants’ Association, stressed on proper inter-departmental coordination to ensure that the work is completed on time. “The lockdown has had a huge impact on our businesses. Any delay in completing the work on these roads will be a severe blow,” he said and pointed out that many shops in the commercial hub had shut down due to losses.