The department has decided to build a 9km flyover from Sheikhpara ‘point’, from where the expressway takes off from the toll plaza, to the Nibra point, where it merges with National Highway 6. The work is expected to start after the monsoon. Once it is built, all vehicles headed straight to NH 6 will take the flyover. This will shorten their journey time significantly and reduce traffic jam. Work on the widening of Kona Expressway into a 10-lane highway is also on.
The number of vehicles taking Kona Expressway has increased by over 10 times in last decade. The last vehicle census done by the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) shows that while less than 10,000 vehicles used to cross the bridge daily in 2006, the number has crossed a lakh at present.
Several factors are responsible for the evening traffic crawl that snakes on till late evening. After 8pm, the number of goods vehicles increases on the bridge. The problem is compounded by buses (there are at least 35 public bus routes). The fact that one flank of Vivekananda Setu has been shut to traffic is adding on to the pressure.
Howrah Police is having a tough time easing traffic on Kona Expressway during the evening hours. They blame the half-automated toll collection system for this. “On paper, they have an operational RFID system where manual tracking is not required. This is slowing the traffic flow,” said an officer of the Second Hooghly Bridge police station.
On each side of the toll plaza, you have eight lanes. This narrows down to four lanes when the traffic moves into Kona Expressway. This narrows further to two lanes at the Santragachi bridge point and then again further up at the Panchawati point where there is a four-point crossing, the police explained. “Add to this the 25 illegal openings that locals have created according to their convenience,” a sergeant said.
The Howrah deputy commissioner of traffic agreed that the traffic snarl on Kona Expressway was a cause of concern. “We have already requested the HRBC to convert into a full RFID system immediately,” he said. The meeting at Nabanna where a final decision on the new flyover was taken this week was attended by Howrah police commissioner DP Singh. A report on the present situation has been sought from him.