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Friday, July 29, 2011

Potholes take their toll

As Anger Mounts At State Of Roads, Motorists Refuse To Pay Levy At City's Entries & Exits. Collections Drop 5%

 Toll collections at the city's gates have taken a hit due to the pothole menace, with motorists from the city and the larger metropolitan region expressing their disgust at the state of roads by refusing to pay toll.
Senior officers of Mumbai Entry Point Toll Ltd (MEPTL) said that collections over the past two weeks have been hit by 4 to 5% because many mo
torists are refusing to pay toll.
    MEPTL, which collects toll at five different entry/exit points, usually collects Rs 60 lakh a day. If 5% of collections are lost, that means Rs 3 lakh is lost daily, which amounts to Rs 42 lakh over two weeks.
    "Over the past two weeks, an average of 4 to 5% of vehicles passing through are not paying the toll daily," said a senior MEPTL
official. "The five toll nakas at Vashi, Airoli, Mulund, Dahisar and LBS Marg (Bhandup) have faced problems collecting the money due to potholes."
    Anger has been mounting against
civic and state officials over the condition of roads this monsoon. TOI reported on Thursday that the city taximen's union will ask the state to refund the one-time road tax. BMC workers, who fill potholes at affected sites, said they face jibes and abuses from motorists and locals.
    A Vashi toll post employee said that most motorists refusing to pay toll, and even some who do, shout things like, "Pehele road thik kar, fir paisa maang."

    Incidentally, a large chunk of the toll collected by MEPTL goes towards building and maintaining flyovers in the city. It goes towards expenses incurred by state agencies to build over 66 flyovers in Mumbai and MEPTL's contract stipulates that it must also maintain 26 of the flyovers, besides some bridges and junctions. The MEPTL paid the Maharashtra State Road Development
Corporation (MSRDC) Rs 2,100 crore for the contract signed late last year. The contract, in place till 2026, allows MEPTL to collect toll and demands that it develop the toll network.
    The toll money doesn't go towards the maintenance of over 1,900 km of BMC roads, which have thousands of potholes.
    Seawoods resident Vijay Ramamoorthy, who pays Rs 60 in toll daily to travel to Mumbai and back for work, once refused to pay the amount. "I get delayed and face other problems due to the potholes," said Ramamoorthy. "Why should I pay toll when even the roads leading to toll nakas are pockmarked?"
    He and another Seawoods resident, Praveen Morarka, also questioned why only those living outside Mumbai have to pay a toll. "I don't understand why only those people who have to go back and forth between Mumbai and Navi Mumbai, Thane or Vasai are charged toll so that flyovers in Mumbai are maintained. A majority of Mumbaikars also use the flyovers, but don't drive out of the city," said Morarka.
    The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority maintains over 70 to 80 km of roads and flyovers in the city, the Public Works Department around 45 km of highways and flyovers and the MSRDC around 15 to 20 km.

Workers face public ire
Mumbai: The BMC's foot soldiers face their share of public bitterness due to the state of the city's roads. On Thursday at 2 am, TOI met a team of seven men working at Ranibagh at the mouth of the Lalbaug flyover. A family in a Honda City stopped just to abuse the workers for the shoddy work carried out by the BMC. BMC supervisor Manoj Singh could only smile while the driver continued with his rant. "We have to suffer because of your poor work," yelled the driver.
    A labourer said, "We understand why people are angry. Who would like to travel on such roads. But we just follow what we are told." He said the fixing of potholes is temporary as a heavy downpour will wash away the mixture.
    Labourer Vijay Sharma claimed the MMRDA caused the craters on the road adjacent to the flyover. "They totally destroyed the road while constructing the flyover. The BMC has to now take the responsibility," said Sharma.
    Singh, while instructing his workers, said not all members of the public were vitriolic. "The other day, when we were working at Maharana Pratap Chowk, people came down and offered us tea. Some stood with us and tried to understand the repairing mechanism. But this is not always the case."— Shawan Sen

ROUGH PATCH FOR THE PUBLIC: Huge craters dot the roads right outside the civic headquarters


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