February 23, 2015 1:52:06 am
After much outcry over the new toll booth at Kamothe for the 23-km Sion-Panvel Highway, the state government has debunked a proposal to collect more toll on the stretch to expand the Thane creek bridge, currently a major bottleneck on the highway.
The cash-strapped Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) had, last year, proposed to expand the Thane creek bridge by further securitising toll collection at the Vashi toll booth or by raising funds through bonds and recovering the finances via an add-on toll at the Vashi booth.
Mumbai Entry Point Ltd is already collecting toll at Vashi near Thane creek bridge, as part of the five entry-points of Mumbai, where MSRDC has securitised toll collection for 16 years. Cars currently pay Rs 35 as a one-way toll. The Kamothe toll booth, which was authorised to start collecting toll last month, is at a close distance of about 15 km, and there has been stiff opposition by residents and local politicians.
“We have discarded MSRDC’s proposal to finance the project. There was additional toll collection involved either by increasing the toll collection period or the toll rate. We are now considering other ways for financing the project. We had even referred it to the urban development department. Now we are considering financing the project through the public works department’s own budget,” said a state government official who did not wish to be named. The MSRDC is constituted under the state public works department.
The state public works department has an annual budget of Rs 4,000 crore for road works in Maharashtra. Chandrakant Patil, minister, public works department said, “We have not taken any decision on this yet. In fact, we are working out various possible options for financing all such type of large road works without having to resort to toll.”
The MSRDC has estimated the cost of expanding the Thane Creek bridge to be Rs 600 crore. The project will add six more lanes to the existing bridge. The bridge is currently a major bottleneck on the Sion-Panvel road, especially after the recent refurbishment of the highway that has led to traffic from ten lanes converging into six lanes. The corporation had earlier requested the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) for financial help for the project.
The authority, constituted under the urban development department, however, denied aid saying the Thane creek bridge expansion will at some levels compete with the proposed showpiece Sewri-Nhava Sheva trans harbour link, for which MMRDA is the nodal agency. Similarly, MSRDC’s attempts to secure funding from the City and Industrial Development Corporation also did not work out.
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