Citizen’s audit highlights issues with flyovers and underpasses in North Chennai

The Perambur Neighbourhood Development Forum has come up with suggestions for redevelopment of flyovers and underpasses in North Chennai.

The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) has proposed the reconstruction of some of the flyovers within the city. 

A section South Usman Road flyover ramp near Chennai Silks will be demolished and the arm is likely to be extended up to CIT Nagar connecting Anna Salai to T. Nagar, with a bigger 1.2km carriageway. 

Similarly, a section of the flyover which links Adyar with Besant Nagar will also be demolished and the foundation pillars will be removed to facilitate the construction of the Metro Rail Twin Tunnels underground. 

The flyover will be reconstructed once the CMRL work is completed.

In the wake of this news, the members of the Perambur Neighbourhood Development Forum conducted an audit on the state of the railway flyover and underpasses at a few locations in North Chennai to check the status of crucial public infrastructure in these parts of the city.

Read more: Flyovers galore in Chennai but do we really need so many?

Status of Murasoli Maran flyover and railway underpass in Chennai

The Perambur Railway underpass was a crucial link between the North and South until a decade ago. It took us over a couple of decades to push the local administration to consider providing a flyover as the underpass used to get inundated during the monsoon causing a lot of inconvenience to the commuters. The flyover took over a decade to be completed and was finally opened for the public sometime in 2010.

Over the last thirteen years, we have noticed most of the commuters choosing to use the underpass instead of the flyover for their daily commute. 

The reason is simple. The distance between Perambur and Ayanavaram is only a few hundred meters if commuters take the underpass. The distance is relatively shorter when compared to the flyover which takes a serpentine route to connect either side of the bridge. 

The original design of the flyover was allegedly changed to serve the vested interest of a few politicians and influential individuals. Illegal occupation of the government land also remained untouched for similar reasons. These days only the Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses and other private buses as well as water tankers and trucks can be seen using the flyover.  

With the commencement of  work on Phase II of the Metro Rail, the government land is likely to be recovered. If the local administration had acted decisively in the first place, the original design could have been maintained and the construction of the bridge would have served its purpose.

With only a few commuters choosing to use the flyover, it has become a haven for all sorts of illegal activities such as mugging and street racing.

Given this situation, we propose that the flyover be redesigned to connect Perambur directly with Ayanavaram by reconstructing one of the arms directly to Medavakkam Tank Road off Kunoor High Road. This will make the commute shorter and also help save a lot of fuel being burnt by the commuters on a daily basis taking the circuitous route.

On behalf of the members of the Perambur Neighborhood Development Forum, we had written to the railway administration seeking their help in renovating the Murasoli Maran Railway underpass as well. 

Water logging during the monsoon was an issue of public interest which had to be addressed. The road median made up of concrete blocks within the underpass was turning out to be a safety hazard especially when inundated. Commuters riding the two-wheelers were left with no other option but to stop abruptly whenever a long-distance train passed above them. They were doing so in order to save themselves from getting drenched by water draining from the train toilets.

The reconstruction of the underpass was taken up over six months ago and is nearing completion. We are glad that the above-mentioned issues are being addressed with a design which is closed on the top. The construction has taken several months as the pre-cast reinforced cement concrete technology could not be adopted for this location.

underpass reconstruction
The work on reconstruction of the underpass has been ongoing for the past six months. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

Status of Vyasarpadi flyover and railway underpass in Chennai

A long pending demand for the construction of a flyover between Pulianthope and Vyasarpadi in North Chennai on Dr Ambedkar College Road is finally being addressed. This is expected to improve flood preparedness and improve connectivity during the northeast monsoon. The above-mentioned road has been closed and the flyover construction has commenced.

A request has also been sent to the railway administration seeking their help in reconstructing the railway underpass on the same lines as the Perambur Railway underpass. 

Water logging within this underpass during the monsoon has been an issue for decades. 

Pedestrians and commuters on two-wheelers are forced to stop whenever an express train passes above them. A redesign of this underpass would greatly benefit them. 

The use of pre-cast reinforced cement concrete technology could be considered to speed up the process.

Chennai railway underpass
Commuters stop when a train passes above to avoid getting drenched by water from the toilets. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

The restoration of the Ganeshapuram subway before work on the flyover is taken would also make life easy for the commuters. If the construction is taken up, the railway administration should also provide a pedestrian passage as well as a road divider.

Read more: Dark, dirty… or simply closed! How are these Chennai subways helping pedestrians?

Status of Erukkancheri High Road flyover and railway underpass in Chennai

The pillars of the Erukkancheri flyover and the road below which connects the underpass criss cross each other making it difficult for the commuters to enter or exit the service lanes at both ends. 

During peak hours, no police personnel are deployed in the area to monitor the flow of traffic.

The GCC officials have chosen to erect metal footpath railings along the gutter on one side of the underpass, forcing the pedestrians to walk alongside the commuters riding vehicles. 

If reconstructed, there must be provisions made for pedestrian footpaths before securing the gutters with railings. 

The grills covering the stormwater gutters have gone missing and the pits have been left open. It is very disheartening to believe that pedestrians’ safety has been compromised entirely.

The design of the underpass needs to be upgraded to provide enough access to commuters and pedestrians from both sides.

Users of such infrastructure are left to deal with immeasurable dangers on a daily basis due to poor design and planning. When the city administration plans an overhaul, there must be stakeholder consultations to understand the pain points and remedy them during the reconstruction. 

Similar audits could be carried out for the many flyovers and underpasses across the city before decisions are made on revamping the infrastructure. 

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