Cortalim’s Jam Junction Needs Urgent Attention

By Ashwin Tombat
14 May 2019 23:57 IST

For those who commute past the Zuari Bridge-Cortalim junction between Panaji and Margao or Vasco, it is a painful experience. Every few weeks, there is a mega traffic jam that leaves them stranded for hours. People get delayed for work, weddings and funerals. They are late to reach home. Children cry from hunger and thirst. Bus commuters and two-wheeler riders inhale huge amounts of dust. Tourists miss flights and trains. The pain of waiting for hours in scorching heat and dust is very, very frustrating.

Even every day, traffic in at least one direction — sometimes northbound and at other times southbound — is held up and moves slowly, in stop-and-go mode. A single minor accident can create that nightmare traffic jam which results in vehicles taking hours to cross a short 3-km stretch.

It’s a mess. And it’s been going on for over a year, with no solution in sight.

Goa depends on tourism. It may not be the state’s biggest earner, but over one-third of the state’s population depends on tourism — directly or indirectly — for its livelihood.

This troublesome traffic bottleneck is between North Goa — the state’s main tourist belt — and its airport in Dabolim, as well as its main railway station in Margao. And the government is doing little or nothing to find a solution to it.

It is unfair to the citizen-commuter, who ought to be able to reach work and return home in a reasonable time frame. It is a huge disservice to the tourist, who nowadays has to leave the hotel several hours in advance, for fear of missing a flight or a train owing to a traffic jam.

It’s downright irresponsible.

Proper traffic management means much more than rushing to the spot when there is a jam to clear traffic. It means more than stationing a crane in the area to tow away vehicles if and when there is an accident. It means more than managing the traffic to clear a jam and restore the smooth movement of traffic as quickly as possible.  

It means planning.

Construction work on the new Zuari Bridge will go on for another two or three years, if not more. The new Mandovi Bridge, for example, opened nearly three years later than scheduled, and it is still not complete. Until the new Zuari Bridge is opened, there has to be a comprehensive traffic management plan that all stakeholders adhere to.

Right now, it is the construction company that seems to be taking all decisions. It is they that plan the diversions, demarcate the carriageway and, quite often, even direct the traffic.

There is a basic problem with this. For the company, its own priorities come first. It will find the solution that is most convenient for the unhindered construction of the bridge. In this scheme of things, unfortunately, the commuter’s interests come last.

That’s why the traffic police need to take charge.

It is they who should decide everything. Based on inputs from the construction company and the PWD, they should plan the diversions and demarcate the carriageway. They should insist that there are decent tarred diversion roads, not cratered and potholed muddy tracks littered with stones, which are death traps for two-wheeler riders and an accident-prone minefield for vehicles.

The traffic police should insist that earthmoving machinery and heavy vehicles transporting bridge segments are allowed to operate only when there is very light traffic on the highway, mainly late at night. They should decide how much of the road the construction company is allowed to block. This needs to be kept to an absolute minimum — not an inch more than is required — so that there is more space for traffic to move smoothly.

Construction companies building heavy infrastructure are quite used to these kinds of restrictions. In big cities like Mumbai, they occupy a bare minimum of space and work mostly at night.

It is only in Goa that Dilip Buildcon and Larsen & Toubro get to do what they like. And that is because the state government and the traffic police seem quite content to relax and let them call the shots. In Goa their bulldozers and excavators move slowly along the road during rush hour, holding up traffic. Their oversized trailer trucks haul bridge segments in peak traffic, creating bottlenecks. They block most of the road, leaving a narrow, muddy single lane for traffic.

Only in Goa.

It’s time our government officials and traffic police take charge, tell the construction company what it can and cannot do, and look after the interests of those who give them their salaries — the taxpayers.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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