Halting for Beauty or Risk? Mumbai-Pune Expressway’s Scenic Stops Raise Safety Questions

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Mumbai, 16th June 2023: The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has sparked a heated debate with its plan to introduce scenic halting points along the bustling Mumbai-Pune Expressway. The move has drawn mixed reactions, as concerns over safety and traffic congestion clash with the desire to appreciate the region’s natural beauty.

The proposal to allow commuters to pause and admire picturesque spots along the 90-kilometre expressway has raised eyebrows, considering the growing vulnerability of the route to accidents. The shoulder space, commonly known as the truck lay-bay, already witnesses frequent vehicle breakdowns or forced stops due to heavy traffic. Experts argue that allowing additional stops for fleeting sightseeing would be imprudent, as it contradicts the expressway’s purpose of minimizing travel time.

The MSRDC has identified two potential halting points along the expressway. The first is near the Khalapur Toll Plaza, approximately 12 kilometers from the Mumbai end, offering a scenic view of the Sahyadri mountain range adorned with cascading waterfalls during the monsoon. The second point is at Lonavala, around 50 kilometers from the start of the Mumbai corridor, where one can witness the majestic Duke’s Nose, Monkey Point, and the deep valley.

Despite prominent blue boards warning against halting on the expressway since its opening in 2002, fatal accidents have occurred due to vehicles parked on the roadside. Commuters and experts express valid concerns regarding the new halting spots, fearing increased traffic jams and compromised safety. The memory of a tragic incident in 2016, when a tourist bus collided with parked cars, claiming seventeen lives and injuring over thirty people, remains fresh in the minds of those connected to the expressway.

Sanjay Shirodkar, an activist who has been actively involved with the expressway, criticized the MSRDC’s initiative, citing the high number of road accident-related deaths over the years. He accused the authorities of diverting attention from the ongoing traffic jams and accidents rather than addressing them. Shirodkar emphasized the lack of a properly functioning trauma care center, which should have been established long ago. Multiple public interest litigations (PILs) concerning the expressway have been filed by Shirodkar in the Bombay High Court.

RTI activist and AAP leader Vijay Kumbhar echoed Shirodkar’s concerns, suspecting ulterior motives behind the halting points. He suggested that once these spots gain popularity, the authorities may permit the establishment of restaurants and stalls, prioritizing profits over passenger safety. Kumbhar criticized the lack of upgrades to enhance the road’s safety, stressing that no individual has received treatment at the trauma center despite years of operation.

Responding to the criticisms, Rakesh Sonawane, MSRDC executive engineer, emphasized the corporation’s commitment to commuter safety. He stated that the identified truck lay-bays would serve as relaxation points for commuters to cool down their engines and tires. Sonawane also highlighted the importance of adhering to traffic norms, as parking on the shoulder of roads is prohibited due to its association with accidents.


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