Nitin Gadkari. Photo credit should read RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • Bangalore highway project gets a shot in the arm with the Centre offering to fund 50 per cent of the PRR project.

A 65-km Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) development in Bangalore will now get off the ground with Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari stepping in to part-fund the project, which will be built at a cost of Rs 11,000 crore.

The road, which will be 50 per cent funded by the Centre aims to ease congestion along Bangalore’s major highways as well as its Outer Ring Road and is expected to cost Rs 8,000 crore in land acquisition and Rs 3,000 crore for construction.

The state government had earlier approached the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to fund the project, but was turned away.

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The Karnataka cabinet recently approved a proposal reducing the road width from 100 metres to 75 metres and returning 25 metres to the landowners as developed land. This was based on the suggestion of urban expert V Ravichandar of the Bharat Vikas Group (BVG) to follow models in Ahmedabad and Amaravati, where half the land is returned as developed land.

The Peripheral Ring Road was proposed as a measure to decongest the city’s Outer Ring Road. Originally proposed by the state government, the project has not progressed much with either the state rejecting Central support or the Centre refusing to back it with BJP and INC governments at both levels. A section of the PRR, as part of the long-pending Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor (also known as NICE Corridor) has been operational, connecting the Bangalore-Mumbai Highway and the Bangalore-Chennai Highway.

What is interesting is that, barring Bangalore, most of India’s big cities have a major bypass of Ring Road to connect them. Except Mumbai, where the road network is entirely the work of various state-level agencies and the different Municipal Corporations, and Hyderabad, whose access-controlled Outer Ring Road Expressway has been built by the Hyderabad Metropolitan Municipal Authority (HMDA). Cities such as Chennai, Pune, Delhi, Kolkata, all feature a bypass or partial ring road that was built by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).

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Bangalore has only a partial ring road that acts as a bypass to the city, with its Outer Ring Road that took almost two decades to complete becoming city road due to expanding growth.

This whole thing teaches us a very important lesson. In our country, with a federal structure, the NHAI can’t be counted upon for building every small road, but at the same time very few states, such as Gujarat and Maharashtra have the capability to build roads that can match up to NHAI’s standards.

While bypasses in capital cities can be considered as NHAI’s responsibility, as invariably more than one National Highway intersects the city, this model cannot be adopted everywhere. The NHAI’s role must be restricted to National Highways alone.

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What needs to be done here is for NHAI to develop a set of standards and practices in terms of road width, quality, control of access, etc. These standards must be set keeping in mind India’s varying terrain, land acquisition issues and the local economy.

The NHAI, with support from the NITI Aayog, must then pass on these standards and practices to each state government to set up a competent agency on the lines of either the NHAI, or similar state level entities such as the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), which built the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, to let state governments develop highways and road infrastructure of higher quality.

States must not rely on the centre to build major highways, but should rather be able to get private participation for funding and building them, irrespective of whether they are national or state highways.

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