Stop building elevated corridors in the city!

Building elevated roads is a case of needing bigger pants because one continues to eat unhealthy food. How big can the pant be? What's the implication of big bodies and bigger pants in the long run? asks Sathya Sankaran.

Elevated road on Hosur road. Pic. source :

What’s the problem?

Work commute is taking a hit with traffic congestion on the roads increasing. Since the problem is on the road, the solution has been to increase it and remove perceived obstructions like signals, pedestrians etc from the line of sight of the car to increase speed.

One can draw an analogy to an obese person taking on too much comfort food because it feels good and now he/she needs bigger pants. He/she fails to notice that this is potentially fatal in the long run with illness and diseases in the medium term.

What are the implications?

The implications of this road capacity journey is dire. All capacity leads to a net addition to congestions, pollution and carbon footprint. The capacity addition is finite and we are crossing the limits every time. Microclimate changes including heat from motors and loss of green cover make the surface miserable for everyone, making them get into the comfort of closed air-conditioned places, thereby increasing the heat and polluting compounds transferred into the atmosphere. It a vicious cycle. Bengaluru is among the top two cities in the country affected by this.

Call to action

Internalise this solution. Stand for supporting it in your daily interactions with other people, Sign the petition so we can tell this to the powers that be.

Experts have spoken

What are the potential solutions?

Short term:

  • Build barricaded bus lanes on existing carriage way and increase frequency to three minutes headway on east west north south corridors so maximum traffic can move on them. Buy articulated buses or replace with Trams trains to increase carrying capacity per trip all on the surface. Barricaded lanes need to start with wider roads like ring roads and highways like Bellary, Tumkur and Airport roads which already have the bandwidth and carry regular commuters.

Medium term:

  • Commission suburban trains to the Airport from electronic city, along the IT corridor and segments like Ramanagara/Tumkur to whitefield. This can catalyze heavy traffic movement on tracks which have uninterrupted right of way and can be done on existing train tracks so the expenses and speed of rollout can be very less. The challenges are for the state to sit with Indian railways and make this happen. It requires dedication and commitment. All metros in India have it and are benefitting from it. Only Bangalore does not. Why?

  • Private transport disincentive Implement paid parking and let congestion be a natural disincentive for switch to public transport. Private transport disincentive is extremely critical to public transport adoption. There is no other alternative as proven world over.

Long term:

  • Reengineer the current at grade to have uniform carriage way and remove chicken necks with proper merging distances and traffic channelization strategies. There will be a need to address obstructions at chicken necks alone which may be troublesome to acquire. But if the plan is presented, eminent domain on smaller properties is better than spoiling the entire city with projects which don’t solve problems.

  • Build sidewalks and cycle tracks on arterial corridors. It’s a much neglected but highly beneficial infrastructure which makes everything work better. There is a huge population in IT cities who are young, fancy cycle commute and public transport but we are deliberately underinvesting in these and not steering it in the right direction

  • Buses and tram trains to areas not covered by commuter rail

My city, Portland, Oregon in the United States, stopped building freeways over 40 years ago because they are the most expensive, damaging and least effective solution to the problems posed by growth. Portland’s focus on good transit along with inexpensive improvements for cyclists and pedestrians has worked to reduce pollution and traffic deaths as well as supporting a booming economy despite doubling in population during that time.

– Rex Burkholder, former Councillor in Portland’s Metro Regional Government, now an author and a strategic advisor for urban affairs

What are the incentives?

There is no incentive for long term thinking right now within the citizenry, business and political class. Most people end up trying to solve the pressing problem without realizing the long term impact. How do we get to deferred rewards which are more beneficial in the long run? Who is responsible for thinking about it and making everyone go towards it? Where is that leadership?

Politicians give in to pressure for immediate solutions to mitigate backlash and remain popular. Most medium and long term solutions like public transport, pedestrian and cyclist friendly streets have taken a back seat due to the need to fix road bandwidth issue. It has always been a catch up.

Why do a series of short term stop gaps end up getting done?

Because it does feel comfortable in larger pants for a while. You will get relief for a few years but Induced demand is a well proven concept in transportation. The more road capacity you build the more it attracts vehicles, new ones.  It has been shown that the added lanes get full in as little as 5 years. Is it worth building all that for just a 5 year relief? In fact even in the Mecca of cars, California’s Department of Transportation (aka Caltrans) has admitted to the futility of increasing lanes in a brief called “Increasing Highway Capacity Unlikely to Relieve Traffic Congestion,” compiled by UC-Davis scholar Susan Handy.2  US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx “…we now have the clarity of many decades of hindsight,” he said on a call today. “Unfortunately instead of connecting us to each other, highway planners separated us.”3

What does this lead to?

  • A better city with a better quality of life and sustainable transport.

  • Predictable and reliable commute

  • No road rage, swearing, stress etc.

  • Better health

  • Increased business

  • Better air to breathe

  • Walkable public spaces and active communities

  • Lesser dependence on fossil fuels and lower fuel import bill

Frequently made arguments:

“Bangalore isn’t Amsterdam, ok?”

  • Not yet, and it’s not like Amsterdam is from Venus or Mars, they are also people from planet earth like you and me. It’s not just Amsterdam, now almost all countries are making the switch to sustainable modes and tearing down elevated highways

  • Not long ago, we wanted to make Bangalore another Singapore remember. We also want to mimic other countries by building fancy interchanges for cars like trumpet, clover leaf etc, large elevated highways, metro, bullet train etc, why not walking and cycling like Amsterdam?

“Long-term solutions take time. We need to alleviate issues now.”

  • There have been no investments in long term solutions like bus lanes and commuter rail. There haven’t even been any positive moves in that regard. Bus lanes and commuter rail can be deployed faster than the pillars can come up. Also the elevated highways aren’t really solutions that can be considered temporary that can be used to alleviate sufferings. It takes a huge toll on the cityscape and environment, we are better off biting the bullet and making the long term and medium term solutions work. The construction itself will be so painful that the alleviation at the end of it will be useless.

“India has tried stuff like bicycle lanes and BRT. All these projects have failed.”

  • They take time and need to be given the proper time to mature. Also they have been done in small measures, these don’t work unless there is scale and full commitment. Also, it’s not like the current road building is actually working. It’s failing everywhere all across the world.

  • No public transport incentive has worked anywhere without a commensurate private transport disincentive. Across the world, parking is prohibitively expensive and congestion charges are levied to get people to give up the car addiction. Compared to here where parking is free and you are being pampered with road space again and again, why would you even bother with public transport?

I get it, but I just need the jam on my way to work to clear up now

  • Sorry, it’s only going to get worse if you actually try to build your way out of it. And the relief after the pain is going to be short-lived. If you don’t buy that bigger pant today, you will stop eating that junk tomorrow. The politicians will be long gone, it’s you and your kids who will be left holding the mess. You need to get on the public transport diet, the car comfort food will only get you killed the longer you stick to it. Why do you think cities are tearing down elevated freeways, it’s not because they have nothing else to do.

Further reading:





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  1. Karthick Gururaj says:

    A sane perspective. While Bangalore maybe no Amsterdam, it is worth noting that Amsterdam was indeed like Bangalore is now, before they aggressively pursued cycle lanes and public transport.

  2. Manju George says:

    Great write up Sathya! Makes sense! Issue is how do you instill these senses into political parties and city urban planners!

  3. Ramesh Sreekantan says:

    Let us give some examples.

    1. 30 crores and 2 years and 50 trees were spent on building an overpass at Chord Road and 12th Cross Road in Rajajinagar. What has it achieved. The jam has moved to 19th Main road.

    2. Yeshwantpur flyover is always jammed in the mornings – why? Because there is a classic chicken neck at the end.

    Now there are some ongoing plans to build more underpasses/overpasses on Chord Road – which will have absolutely no effect except for filling up the coffers of the politicians, corporators and contractors. Bangalore has been give a 5000 crore grant. This is a huge sum of money which can be used to transform the city. But what is more likely is that they will spend it on a 5000 crore gun to shoot themselves with.

  4. skeptic says:

    There are lots of good ideas, the city is obese and is in need of some arterial roads to avoid cardiac arrest – and this is the solution (elevated roads) for now. All other things need to fall in place for Bengaluru to become like Portland or Amsterdam, not just public transport. In the meantime CONTROL POPULATION (may be devise ways to eliminate the politicians DNA).

  5. Kishore Kumar says:

    While the author dissects the issue into detail, the link to the article in the New Indian Express says the project os proposed to deconjust the city as the corridors will allow seemless travel from one point of the city to another point by avoiding bottlenecks. Considering the increasing number of vehicles crisscrossing the city to connect to the highways, I think this elevated corridor is a solution. I do agree with the author on the several arguments that Bengaluru city should have a multimode transport system.
    There is also a mention in the IE article that the project economical, technical feasibility will be gauged before undertaking the project.

  6. Blore citizen says:

    Very well written. The government should invite these Praja-Raag and other urban planning experts.

    Expressed in simple words – Why elevated expressway is a bad investment ?

    1. It’s effect won’t be long lasting as next 10 years – we are expected to add NEW 7.5-10 lakh cars and 25 lakh 2-wheelers. So soon you’ll find elevated expressways congested too. If not the 1st year, for sure within the following 3-5 years.

    2. What about the internal roads if our car and 2-wheeler population double or triples ?
    Surely elevated expressway cannot meet 100% of commuter needs. People will still be travelling on other roads like marenahlli road, ring road, uttarahalli main road, etc as well as internal roads leading to a residential layout. These are already severely congested. You can’t go on building elevated roads for internal roads..Then all of city’s residential houses will be covered by elevated roads with no sun light inside house and deafening noise of vehicles on elevated roads.

    3. There are less costly(money wise and environment wise) projects like significantly improving BMTC bus services with dedicated bus lanes, Suburban trains, and expanding metro at faster pace that are better investments.

    The great thing about suburban trains is going to encourage the decentralization model and govt can even give it a push by tax incentives for citizens and businesses relocating to these satellite towns like Bidadi, Ramanagara, Nelmangala, etc
    Why not invest in suburban trains that already have tracks?

    4. Elevated expressway instead of resolving the issue is going to perpetuate the root cause of our transportation problem.
    Root cause of our transportation issue today is bad (uncomfortable, slow, infrequent) public transportation and the resulting growth in private vehicles leading to traffic congestions everywhere..
    If no action is taken to restrict private vehicles and elevated expressway is built, as I articulated in point 1) our transportation worsens.
    Congestion, Pollution, Parking are all huge issues to be dealt with if we allow private vehicles double by 2025. By then huge irreversible damage would be done to the city on all these fronts.

    If you are still not convinced I ask you to vote here after reading this document.

  7. Blore citizen says:

    Don’t we’re a highly DENSE city and the density of Bluru is going to increase many fold in the coming years due to the construction of apartments everywhere. All thse means, we have to efficiently ration road space..

    option 1) 20 Huge-ass Suv each carrying 1 person (20 people) vs
    option 2) 1 Metro coach capacity of 200 people

    Which one of the above can carry more people in the same space in a given time ?

  8. Vijayan menon says:

    Good article in many of the ideas,except I do not agree with the almost draconian view that all elevated corridors are bad.Sure, such a stance helps the author focus on some of pet projects like Commuter Rail etc.but in itself the logic is faulty.
    Have you wondered why most roads in blre run thro what is supposed to be peaceful residential neighbourhoods.simple reason,we do have the basic and requisite infrastructure called roads in the first place.
    This leads to what we call “through traffic” going thro residential areas which is neither their destination or origin.leaving that neighbourhood thourghougly choked at grade level, making it impossible to even cross roads let alone place for cycling lanes.
    This s the one major area where elevated řoads play a big role, taking traffic intending to go elsewhere away from grade, allowing peaceful existence of the neighbourhoods.
    These infrastructural measures are not one shoe fits all.each situation has its own unique short term, medium term and long term solutions.
    So universal statements of “elevated řoads are bad”do little to help, except for a bit of sensational writing and reading.

  9. Blore citizen says:


    How could you miss the main point of this article that was so clearly articulated with analogy ??!? (BTW I don’t know the author)

    By building elevated corridor, you are pandering to the “car-affliction”. Its a dangerous thing. Why ?

    1) Right now our car population is low at 11 lakhs. Per capita car ownership is low ~10% of total population (not necessarily drivable population).

    2) In 10 years, we are easily going to add another 10 lakh cars and 25 Lakh 2 wheelers if current registration trends continue

    3) You answer this question:
    How will our other roads (forget elevated corridors for now) look like with the above 2 points ? Many like Uttarahalli Road, Ittamadu Road already experience huge congestions TODAY. The residents of these areas will now have TWICE the num of cars overall in 2025 if we continue to cater to this disease of “car-affliction” .
    I expect 1 km peak hour congestion on these roads today taking 15-20 mins will take 30-40 mins in 2025.

    4) So Elevated corridor is not sustainable solution. The root cause of our transportation problems

    a) Is extremely bad public transportation: Frequency-wise, Speed-wise, Comfort-wise. (All 3 can be addressed by Metro, Dedicated Bus-lane, Express-Buses, Long-Distance Suburban Train)

    b) over-reliance on private vehicles causing traffic congestion.

    So lets address ROOT CAUSE!

    Besides the cost (environment) of elevated corridors is just too much. So when we have other low-cost and sustainable way of improving transportation why are we taking high-cost and unsustainable approach ? Are we stupid as a society ?

    The least we can do is get country’s urban planning experts like Janagraaha, Praja-Raag, Railway ministry and debate this for a few days on the model that gives us the biggest bang for the buck without taking heavy toll on the environment.

  10. Vimla Crasta says:

    I just do not agree. Most ideas espoused are Utopian and just does not fit into the chaos we have created called Bangalore. Your ideas will work only if each one of us puts others before self or at least don’t jump the queue. Even on roads where there is no significant congestion you see people breaking traffic rules merrily. Roads as built are not built with any real planning or civic sense. Every public contract project takes years to complete because that is how you inflate the cost. I have seen a one acre park complete with trees come up in less than a week in a traffic island below a flyover in China. Cities like Amsterdam do not have the kind of population we have. They have been planning and building with proper regulations and codes for decades. Bangalore is probably one of the worst when it comes to code violations and encroachments. Unless you want to knock down most of the city and restart it is just not possible to live without Fly overs.

  11. Blore citizen says:

    Vimla, For last mile solution I agree with you, there should ALSO be motorized transport available (esp for elderly,). Minibus/Tempos could be that motorized transport. People who want to walk or use cycles can also use them.

    We need a ROBUST public transportation that is efficient. Private transportation in HIGHLY DENSE city like ours (mind you our density is going to increase significantly in coming years due to the apartments) is NOT sustainable solution. It just takes common sense to realize this. You don’t need to be an urban planning expert to realize this.

  12. Vijayan menon says:

    Dear Blre citizen,
    No one( at least those off right mind) can and should argue against the well established measures of public transport, buses , commuter rail,non motorized transport for urban transport solutions.
    They must be fought for and lobbied on their own steam.
    But using the favorite whipping boys of ” elevated corridors” And “”car centric policies” as the vehicle to this end is not exactly the right way to go about it.
    Anyone who has even marginally been involved in activism knows that it is easier to lobby against something rather than for.
    We need to recognise that Bangalore is a big village masquerading as a metropolitan entity.We need to understand that our basic road infrastructure is that of an overgrown village.
    Elevated corridors have little to do with Car centric policies.It has more to do with what happens at the grade ( surface level) and how that soace should ideally be.And road infrastructure is not just for cars , its for bikes, buses light commercal vehicles even non motorised transport.
    As a case in point, no amount if investments in public transport is really going to decongest our city centre ,our CBD.This is especially so when north, south ,east and west bound traffic have no practical road to traverse except CBD itself.

    Elevated roads need to be understood as the only viable way to increase road capacities, which as argued above , bangalore the village needs.On grade new roads can only be done with destruction of buildings and much higher costs .
    And the cost argument..well that is another debate .when 30k crores is earmarked for the metro ( over years) , it gives me the impression that availability of funds is not the limiting factor.
    We in public debate seem to have an ‘EITHER OR’ argument .Its time we brought the “AND” into our lexicon.

  13. Blore citizen says:


    you said: “no amount if investments in public transport is really going to decongest our city centre ,our CBD”

    Disagree. Lets FIRST try the lowest-cost environment wise and money-wise to solve this as I laid it out in prior comment. Why do we want to spend 1000’s of crores when we can immediately try some other solutions.

    Bus (short term)
    – Dedicated bus lane,
    – Increased Frequency,
    – Express Buses that go on wide&straight roads (and not inside residential l/o)
    – Minibus/Vans that’ll ferry people from residential l/o to big bus stops and satellite bus stands

    Suburban Rail (short term)
    – Increase frequency as much as possible
    – BTW these criss-cross city. And the beauty of this is, with right tax incentives, govt could start to divert new growth only in satellite towns.

    Metro (mid term)
    – Put more resources and build metro at least at 20 km/year. So by 2025 we have new 200 km network. Why should everything be under BMRCL if it is a bottleneck….do some PPP model and let them work in parallel.

    Don’t forget the huge environment cost of building elevated corridor out of your argument. There are other solutions that can and should be tried first. If its going to delay your favorite “elevated corridor” by a year, so be it. But lets not create irreversible damage to the city.

  14. Sathya Sankaran says:

    It seems to me from the counter arguments that Bus lanes, Suburban rail, pedestrian & cycling facilities will be rolled out only after the elevated expressway will be built or at best in parallel, but never before. That clearly indicates that there is vested interest by certain kind of people. I haven’t seen a single daily public transport user or a common cyclist taking part in any of this planning & decision making process or anybody even thinking about your plumbers, carpenters etc. It is clear who wants these projects and their status in this lobbying ecosystem. It also appears to me that while people pretend to read and understand what Im saying but only want to put out what they want to have instead of what is right to be done for the city. It is absurd to claim that elevated corridors mitigate suffering on the surface while I have clearly elucidated both in the article and the petition why it won’t. It will be too costly for Bangalore to heed to these people and find out afterwards.

  15. Blore citizen says:


    And I cannot emphasize more. It is also time we start to do something on checking private vehicles. I don’t care what the means is (Parking tax, Registration tax, Congestion tax, etc), but the point is : It is NOT just the CBD that is choking because of traffic. It is pretty much every road which includes peripheral roads like ring roads, 1-2km long internal roads of every residential layout. I ask that you come and see roads like 25ft ittamadu main road (its what I call internal road leading to houses) during peak hour. Now just building elevated corridor is NOT going to solve the mess of all these internal roads.
    Some may say its going to worsen if nothing is done on checking private vehicles.
    The thinking of potential car buyer would be, “hey I can zip through on the elevated corridor from Ittamadu to Byapanahalli in new Mahindra Eco sport”.
    But when rubber hits the road, there will be 30-40 mins congestion to take this person from his home in Ittamadu to nearest elevated corridor 1-2 kms away because there are 1000’s of Mahindra eco sport on Ittamadu Main road all trying to do the same, going in the direction of the entry to the elevated corridor.

    I hope you understand this.

  16. Vijayan menon says:

    Oh no! vested interests! Extreme left populist arguments on plumbers, carpenters. The foreign hand ! the bad capitalist!
    And people of a particular segment /class not being involved in decision making??Hullo! No segment is consulted ..period and that’s another story.
    Think we should grow up , from trying to paint a picture of the big evil! could start with looking at the expense of the metro,and the ticket price which i doubt the carpenter or plumber can afford.
    Roads at least have the possibility of really cheap bus transport being a viable mode of transport.
    any , enuf said..each group will lobby for what it thinks right.
    That’s the way our system works.
    The saddest part of the affair is that each group( including me), go their own separate way. Ideology , belief systems and pure ego not allowing a common platform ..and the government goes scott free .

    cheers and bye.

  17. Sathya Sankaran says:

    Vijayan you know better about public consultation than me, But heres the line to be towed, investment in public transport infrastructure comes FIRST not along side or after. The first commuter rail runs, the first bus lane gets built & the first cycling corridor gets created, 1000kms of roads are first made pedestrian friendly, then we get back to the drawing board to deal with overflows.

  18. Karthick Gururaj says:

    Vijayan, there never truly is “AND”, it is always “either or” in a resource constrained system. And am not talking just about fund allocation: even if we assume there are sufficient funds for ALL the infra (elevated roads, signal free corridors with pedestrian crossings, cycle lanes, etc) there is always contention for road space. Clearly, we need to move majority of the commuters to sustainable and efficient transport. I don’t think you are disagreeing there.

    It is finally a matter of ROI – what is the returns we get for the thousands of crores invested and the environmental cost incurred. Are we, as a society, giving SUFFICIENT priority to transport systems that are scalable? Increased private vehicle ownership (and increased congestion) is a symptom of the underlying inefficiencies – a response by us as individuals to take control of our commute times and comfort. While we take measures to treat this symptomatically, the government must really focus on solving the disease.

    It always puzzles me why car commuters so violently oppose any measures that seems to take away road space – like for dedicated cycle/bus lanes. Surely, they must realise that it is not the vehicles that wish to commute by itself (silly thought, yes), it is the people inside who wish to. So a having a good MRTS might eat into road space, but will reduce the number of vehicles on road considerably. It will ALSO benefit those who wish to commute by car always.

  19. Vijayan menon says:

    All this really depends on where you come from.i come more from protecting residential neighbourhoods, maintaining peaceful Nature of these living spaces.
    Traffic hold up,congestion, spending hours on commute, comes a poor second or third,with me after civic issues like water, noise and air polution and peaceful neighbourhoods.
    Getting thro traffic to avoid these living spaces by road infrastructure enhancements therefore becomes important for me.and that’s where elevated řoads comes into scheme of things.

    I maintain that we do not have the requisite road infrastructure for even a fraction of vehicles on the road today.
    And on moving people to sustainable public transport,I have a slightly different take.
    Possession and usage of cars or self vehicles has little to do with getting from point a to point b.
    But the whole arena of a developing economy and aspirations of “getting ahead”by the middle and lower class(income wise).
    Sure public transport can and should be incentivised,but Saturday night the roads will get choked with personal vehicles.

  20. Blore citizen says:


    1) The experiment of dedicated Bus lane is worth trying. I have heard from a NRI friend that was in Ahmedabad and the guy was all praise for Modi on the dedicated Bus lane implemented . Check it here

    2) With regards to your argument, that there isn’t requisite road in infrastructure , I don’t entirely agree there. For example, lets just take going from South-CBD. We have the following 2-lane roads that could have 1 dedicated bus lane
    1. RV road
    2. Kanakapura Road
    3. Bannerghata Road
    4. Marenhalli Road
    5. Hosur Road
    6. JC Road

    3) What is it going to cost to try this dedicated bus lane experiment for a few months. In my view, not a lot. But the value we get if it works is HUGE. Just like Delhi govt tried the “odd-even” experiment, Bengaluru should try this dedicated bus lane concept.
    The side benefit is some road space that was hitherto used for parking(legal or illegal) is now gone forcing some private car drivers to hop on to the bus.
    I think a lot of 2-wheelers will likely abandon, if this dedicated Bus lane ensures one can predictably go from point a to point b in say 30 mins (South to Central) and without having to wait 20-30 mins for Bus to arrive.

    4) Now w.r.t to avoiding residential spaces, the roads I mention above are all commercial. so you wouldn’t be going near residential spaces. Also, don’t expect elevated corridors to be very far from residential places. Unlikely it will be. And I am not even sure how much insulation the residents/commercial centers below will have from the cars zipping through the corridor.

    5) Regarding your point on aspiration – You are absolutely right. It also has a lot to do with Auto companies marketing it and making it like a prestige thing! And we need change this culture for the common good of all. Personally for me, SUV or Car is nothing but some steel and 4 wheels that consumers petrol and x amount of road space and and takes me from point A to point B. Its only utility value. Everything else is largely hype, marketing, false prestige, etc built by vested interest and the people that fall prey to it. That’s how I see it.

  21. Vijayan menon says:

    No real disagreement.
    Perhaps one Way of looking at it, is that while there are macro directions for urban transport issues(efficient, cheap and easy public transport being the main one),each sub geography, each situation needs to be understood as requiring specific design solutions.
    In nutshell,essentially I am against branding elevated corridors as an absolute no no.
    It has its role,subject to intelligent analysis and execution.
    Overdoing it is bad,as overdoing anything is bad.
    And while I have been going hammer and tongs on elevated corridors,I will of course admit that the administration goes into this without detailed thinking,mainly because it is one of the easier contracts to siphon monies from.

  22. Vaidya R says:

    Well written and perfectly put!
    The key point is that first priority should be given to public transport/cycles/walking. This by default can help people leave their cars at home for their main work commutes. This will bring down the number of vehicles on the roads at any given point in time. Elevated corridors sound like a good idea, but they’ll always eventually fulfill their capacity if the number of vehicles is growing. What after they get choked? Just take a look at ORR for an example.

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