Need bungalow service lane to free RTR Marg: PWD Minister

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Public Works Department Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan on Tuesday said that a service lane along Vasant Vihar bungalows will have to be taken over to find a solution to the bottleneck around the flyover on the Rao Tula Ram Marg that leads to the airport.

Colony residents are opposing demands by those living in these bungalows that the service lane must not be taken away to implement the decongestion measure recommended by a government-appointed agency.

Chauhan said, "Short-term measures are not going to solve the problem being faced by lakhs of commuters. We should not ignore the city's larger interest for the sake of a select few. Right now, the plan has gone to UTTIPEC — Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure (Planning & Engineering) Centre — for approval and we will only start implementation once we get requisite approvals."

The flyover on the Rao Tula Ram Marg along the Outer Ring Road was originally proposed to have two carriageways, but the plan was later altered to just one, a decision that is often blamed for the traffic chaos there.

Consultancy firm RITES last month recommended that traffic flow could only be improved either by expanding road space at grade, or by constructing a parallel flyover on stilts.

Chauhan said only a portion of the service lane will be used for the project, and that the stretch is necessary to execute either of the two plans proposed for decongesting the area.

Journalist Karan Thapar, who lives in one of the bungalows along the service road on Palam Marg in Vasant Vihar, wrote to Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit last month, urging her to ensure that "the service lane between houses 1 to 8 Palam Marg must not be further reduced in width" to accommodate the proposed flyover.

Thapar cited the RITES report that proposed the service lane be reduced to 4.5 metres from the existing 6 metres, saying it would block access for fire tenders and ambulances during an emergency. In his letter, he has pointed that this stretch of road also houses the Chilean and Bahrainian Embassies as well as the High Commission of The Gambia.

"I know that Aroon Purie, the Editor-in-Chief of India Today and Aajtak, and Harmala Gupta, the daughter of late Lt Gen Harbaksh Singh, endorse and support the request I am making in this letter that at all cost the service lane between houses 1 to 8 Palam Marg must not be further reduced in width...'' the letter states.

Palam Marg residents maintained that the proposals of RITES will not benefit the entire community. "Reducing the width of the service lane will make it a one-way road. There will be horrendous traffic," Harmala Gupta said.

The Vasant Vihar Welfare Association (VVWA) said residents who will be affected by the decongestion plan were not willing to part with the service lane.

VVWA secretary Ramesh Kumar Vohra said, "The chief fire officer has told us the fire service does not need to enter a house to extinguish a fire. We will not allow residents to be cheated by the personal interests of Palam Marg residents."

A case regarding the RTR flyover is also in court. Senior advocate Kailash Vasdev said: "The plans that have been submitted by RITES show lack of consideration for planning. This move of taking over the service lane will not only affect people living along Palam Marg but everybody. In 2006, before work even began on RTR flyover, we had suggested alternative systems and had asked for a review of the design. But no one paid attention to our suggestions as the project had to be completed before the Games 2010. It is all about political fancy. Where are the subways and underpasses which were part of the plan?"

(With Srinath Rao)

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