Here’s an alternative to Chalukya Circle elevated highway

Many problems that are causing traffic jams on Airport Road from Basaveshwara Circle are solvable, says Ramesh Sreekantan, and questions the need for an elevated highway.

Traffic that needs to take a right turn at Windsor Manors causes roadblocks for airport traffic. Pic: Google Earth.

Namma Bengaluru used to be a very beautiful city. There were beautiful circles, tree-lined avenues and lots of greenery to complement the wonderful weather.

However, in the last few years a lot of the beauty has been destroyed in the name of development. First the circles were removed – owing to the misplaced notion that its better for traffic to have a four or five way intersection. Then the trees were removed – owing to the misplaced notion that widening roads helps avoid congestion. Then came ugly underpasses and flyovers – the idea being to make roads `signal
 free.’ This came at the cost of the lives of many pedestrians – as no provision was made for pedestrians.

The latest plan of the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and government is to build multi-level elevated superhighway from Chalukya Circe (Basava Circle) in central Bangalore all the way to Hebbal Flyover – a total distance of 10.9 kilometres. This is to cost – at current estimates, a whopping 1100 crores – almost the amount collected as property tax per year by the BBMP. It is a completely foolhardy plan which will destroy whatever little beauty remains in central Bangalore. This must be stopped.

The stretch from Basaveshwara Circle to Mekhri Circle, ironically still called ‘circle’ though neither of them are anymore, is one of the most beautiful stretches of roads in Bangalore. It was a shady boulevard flanked by a golf course on one side and the Palace grounds on the other. Tall rain trees still cover some stetches of the road. If the highway is built, it will completely destroy this stretch. A few years ago they hacked all the trees on Chowdiah road beside the golf course and the area has barely recovered. Now they want to assault it again.

The problem

In order to argue why this plan should not go through, let me first describe the problem. There are a few problematic points.

  • At Chalukya circle, six roads meet. One of them is the primary road from Central Bangalore to the airport – or anywhere North-West – like Malleshwaram, Sadashiv Nagar etc. However, at the moment this is not such a bad junction for most of the day – takes at most threeminutes to cross.
  • Further down, there is a more serious problem, at Windsor Manor Junction. This is because a certain amount of traffic coming towards Sankey Road has to turn right on to Kumar Krupa Road, near the Chief Minister’s house. This results in a jam.
  • The major problematic junction is at Cauvery Theater, where Sankey Road and Chowdiah Road meet. An underpass was built using `magic boxes’ a few years ago and it is quite a disaster. Owing to some land acquisition problems the underpass – which was to come up in 3 days but ended up taking 45 – was made such that one goes down and comes up before the junction. As a result traffic travelling towards the airport has to make a `U’ turn which results in a huge backup during rush hour.
  • After Cauvery junction, its a bit of a roller coaster ride all the way to Hebbal flyover. Here traffic is not really so bad – it gets a little backed up at times, thanks to the fact that there are no pedestrian crossings, another crossing for the vehicles going towards Rahmath Nagar (RT Nagar), and the poor state of Mekhri circle underpass, but otherwise it is quite smooth.
  • Another problem caused by the existing underpasses/overpasses is that traffic coming out of Palace Grounds cannot take a right – towards the airport – and have to travel almost 2.5 km to make a U-turn, adding 5 km to their journey. This is particularly bad when there is a function in the Palace Grounds, as there often is.

A possible solution

  • The major problem is at Cauvery Junction. If this problem is solved by making a proper overpass or underpass – for which now the land has been acquired – there will be no problem anymore. A straight forward over pass with a light for traffic coming from Bhashyam circle and with the provision for traffic coming from the Palace grounds to make a U-turn and a right will essentially solve most of the problems.
  • If the city really wants to spend money, they can build a flyover from Mekhri Circle to Hebbal. This stretch of the road has already been butchered a few years ago. The current situation of `roller coaster’ overpasses sort of works – but is not exactly ideal, since there are only a few places where right turns can be made, and this sometimes leads to jams. Though in reality it is not really necessary.
  • The other problem at Windsor Manor is caused largely because private buses are allowed to turn right onto Kumarakripa Road – this is the entry point for private buses coming from the Bellary Road. If this is forbidden, it will go a long way in eliminating the problem. In any case, the problem is only severe for a short while in the evenings. While the city has made KSRTC move its operations out of the center of town, no such restriction has been made on private operators.
  • Regarding the left turn out of Palace Grounds problem, a possible solution is to make an exit from Palace Grounds on to Jaymahal Road – thus allowing vehicles to exit in whatever possible direction they wish.

At the end of the day, as a city grows, one cannot really avoid traffic jams. There will always be places where at some point traffic will be held up. Basaveshwara circle is one such example – but at the end of the day it is not so bad – it amounts to at the most a five minute delay. Construction of mega flyovers will cause terrific traffic jams for the next several years, make the whole area ugly – and at the end of the day, not really help all as much. If necessary, the highway can be built from Mekhri Circle onwards, where the beauty of the road has been already destroyed.

In many major cities – Boston, Portland and Seoul being notable examples – billions have been spent to remove highways through the city. Toronto and Dallas would also like to do that – but the cost is prohibitive. It’s not clear why our city fathers want to repeat the mistakes that other places have made.

We have inherited a beautiful city. It is up to us to see that it does not get destroyed. In India we care a lot about our families. We should just extend the notion of family to the city around us. The writer Eduardo Galeano describes it well –

To the people of Africa and the native people of America, your family is your entire village with all its inhabitants, living or dead
And your relatives aren’t only human
Your family speaks to you in the cracking of the fire
in the murmur of running water
in the breathing of the forest
in the voices of the wind
in the fury of the thunder
in the rain that kisses you
and the birdsong that greets your footsteps

It is that family that we should take care of. We cannot let it be destroyed.

The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own. Citizen Matters and Oorvani Foundation are not responsible for the accuracy and relevance.

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  1. Manukrishna says:

    Having lived in South Bangalore all my life, I was compelled to move to the East due to personal reasons. I used to travel from Marathalli to Manyata Tech Park via the Outer Ring Road. The experience was horrible – hardly any trees in the stretch, ugly flyovers and underpasses, cabs and heavy vehicles with no idea of how to use road space, traffic snarls, the works! I moved back to South Blr a month back, and despite the fact that my commute time increased, my ride is actually much more pleasant. Save for the JC Road stretch, the entire route is through tree-filled lanes. Chalukya Circle, I agree can be crowded, but like the author said, it rarely ever takes more than 3 mins to pass. The stretch along Golf Course all the way to Mekhri Circle is just a throwback to the times of the Bangalore of yore that we all love.

    There has never been a greater need than right now for citizen participation in town planning. Also, if ever a Culture Ministry does one useful thing, it will be to recognize, shape and nurture an IDENTITY for Bangalore. Protecting the landscape of Central Blr is a great way to start. With the CM’s residence in the firing line, one wonders if citizens even need to make a strong case. But well, such is life.

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