Though the BMC has promised that part of the bridge will be reconstructed before the next rainy season, locals are not convinced given the civic body’s track record – for example, the much-delayed commissioning of Hancock Bridge in south Mumbai.
The alternative connectors available now are Milan subway, a narrow flyover at Vile Parle, and the Andheri subway, which is mostly unusable when it rains as it gets flooded very fast. The Vile Parle flyover is a two-lane bridge and almost always experiences traffic jams on both sides. Milan subway is a bit better than the other two, but then it entails a long detour as it is almost close to Santacruz.
The closure of Gokhale bridge is likely to cause traffic jams on alternative routes especially during peak hours. Some of these routes are already jammed due to ongoing Metro work. Schools and hospitals on certain lanes will add to traffic woes. The BMC should fasttrack the bridge reconstruction process and stick to a timeline.
The BMC has said it will pay IIT-Bombay Rs 19 lakh to proof-check the reconstruction plan drawings. A BMC official said, “The bridge’s drawings over the railway portion were principally approved by the railways in February this year. But railways have suggested the same is required to be proof-checked by IIT for which BMC will have to pay. At present a draft proposal for payment is already in progress.” The civic body is aiming to open two lanes before the next monsoon, which locals feel is an ambitious target looking at the BMC’s poor track record on implementation.
Former Juhu corporator Renu Hansraj said the BMC took almost three years to only work on the approaches of the bridge and so one wonders how it will get two lanes operational before the monsoon? “Traffic in Andheri is already so chaotic that one chooses to travel in non-peak hours to avoid being stuck on the road,” said Hansraj.
Filmmaker and Juhu activist Ashoke Pandit said that since a portion of the bridge crashed in 2018, the BMC was only able to partially operate it. “The under-construction flyover over the Telly Gully junction which we were hoping would ease traffic in the area is going to be of no use now as Gokhale bridge shuts. The traffic situation in the area is getting worse,” said Pandit who in a video thanked local MLA Ameet Satam for raising the issuing of shutting the bridge in time. Satam in a letter to BMC commissioner IS Chahal on November 1 had pointed out that Gokhale bridge is in a very dangerous condition and could lead to a mishap at any moment and hence should be immediately closed.