On the inauguration day of the much-awaited Alappuzha bypass, it is important to note the situation of Kochi even after the launch of twin flyovers at Vyttila and Kundannoor along the NH Bypass. It was expected that the much-hyped launches would ease traffic congestion that Kochi has been facing largely, but nothing seems to have changed as such.
The most notorious of the two is Vyttila, where vehicles move in and to from various direction, with uneven traffic timing for Kadavanthara-Tripunithura route, and narrow roads for some connections. Moreover, Vyttila connects the major parts of the city, meaning a lot of interconnected traffic haunts the junction apart from those crossing the district. The flyover was supposed to have solved such issues, and yet the problems persist.
When complaints doubled after the twin flyovers’ launch, the traffic authorities resorted to closing the crossing just below the bridge leading to Tripunithura as a temporary solution. However, nothing changed even after experimenting for a week, and the police commissioner wrote a letter to the Public Works Department asking them to find a permanent solution to the issue. On this occasion, it is important to remember that the government had proposed a solution to the problem, which they have been ignoring since 2016.
The outer-ring road connecting routes to and from Ernakulam where vehicles wouldn’t have to enter the city to cross has been a major contender in solving Kochi’s traffic woes. The government had proposed the plan and allocated budget for it in separate budget sessions, and yet it hasn’t seen the light of the day. Outer Ring Road project — 64 km long stretch, which connects Chathiyath with Panangad — proposed by the Greater Cochin Development Authority, received a state budget mention in 2016. The still-relevant project is facing an acute fund crunch. The project can immensely reduce intra and inter-city traffic and reduce pollution. It seems that all that the project lacks is a political will.
However, political observers claim that the fund crunch seems to be a weak excuse as the state government has already spent a lot on the metro project, which as of now hasn’t yet been profitable. Moreover, the Outer Ring Road project has already received major clearances from the Kerala Coastal Zone Management Authority. However, if the government waits any further, the land acquisition and construction would be affected as the land surveyed for the project is developing at a fast pace.
Another major project that has been delayed a lot is the Kuthiran tunnel connecting Thrissur and Palakkad. Earlier this week, the Kerala High Court had criticised the National Highway Authority (NHAI) regarding the stalling of Kuthiran tunnel construction. The Court noted that the public is suffering due to the delay in the completion of the construction work. The NHAI told the Court that the delay was due to a financial crunch as well as protests from both ruling and the opposition party. However, on Wednesday, the High Court asked geotechnical engineering expert GL Sivakumar Babu to study the alleged construction work issues of twin tunnels at Kuthiran in Thrissur.
In this context, it is important to revisit the Alappuzha bypass, which is interestingly almost half a century late. The project could have been helpful a long time ago, and yet the government decides that it could have some value here. It could, but the question is whether that was the most effective way to allocate funds for infrastructural development, or could we have done more?