Despite undertaking repair work for four times, cracks have resurfaced on the Versova Creek Bridge situated on the NH-8 which connects Mumbai to Vasai-Virar. Even though vehicles weighing more than 15 tonnes have been barred from plying on this bridge rules are flouted. After the gruesome Mahad Bridge collapse incident, which claimed several lives, is the government waiting for another tragedy to happen? The passage of heavy vehicles on the bridge is causing huge inconvenience to commuters as vehicles remain stranded due to massive traffic jams.
This bridge is the only point from the Western side to enter into the Mumbai City by road; therefore, it remains highly vulnerable from the security point of view. The bridge was constructed by the Public Works Department (PWD) in 1970. The PWD had carried out four lanning work of the bridge. The second bridge was constructed in 2009 and agreement was made by IRB to construct six lanes but till now only four lanes exist. Why six lanes are not being constructed despite the PWD signing an agreement with IRB?
Advocate Jimmy Gonsalves had filed a petition with the Bombay High Court and registered a complaint with various authorities mentioning about overloaded vehicles passing through the bridge. He said, “The Thane Collector had barred vehicles weighing more than 15 tonnes from plying on this bridge. Later all heavy vehicles were restricted from passing through the bridge and only one lane was operational for traffic. After filing a PIL, the court called for stay on plying vehicles on the bridge until it is repaired.”
Gonsalves said that last year the Collector modified his order and allowed vehicles weighing 50 tonnes to pass through the bridge. “He also permitted vehicles weighing 49 tonnes to pass through one side and vehicles weighing 15 tonnes to pass through the other. We will file a contempt of court petition with the High Court. The bridge may collapse any time,” he added.
Petitioners have also demanded stopping of all toll collection at the Khaniwade toll booth near Virar and at Thane toll booth, as a compensation for inconvenienced travellers. They asked what is the purpose behind collecting the toll amount when bridges are not maintained and said that it is a waste of tax-payers money!
Hitendra Thakur, Bajuhan Vikas Aghadi MLA from Vasai-Virar said that the construction of the new bridge will be completed after 20 months. He said, “The Bridge’s condition should not have deteriorated so fast after conducting repairs several times. The highway and PWD department conducts audit of bridges. We are law makers and officers are responsible for the implementation work.”
Even though a new bridge is being constructed on the Versova creek but its work is yet to be completed thereby causing hardships to commuters due to rising vehicular traffic in the area. As per reports, the bridge might take at least 20 months to be operational so motorists won’t get any respite from traffic any time soon.
Residents staying near the bridge want the government to expedite the construction work of the new bridge. “We have to commute to Mumbai for employment purpose; so, steps should be taken to ease our woes. The government should carry out audit of dilapidated bridges and undertake their repairs on priority basis,” said a resident of Sasunavghar, a village on the condition of anonymity.