The missing link will go the extra mile

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The 19.84 km ‘Missing Link’ project, bypassing the Khandala Ghat section of the Mumbai-Pune highway, will not be ready until the end of 2023. Its previous deadline was February-April 2023, which had to be pushed back to due to the pandemic restrictions. To be built between Khopoli and Kusgaon, the link will bypass two neighborhoods, two talukas and eight villages, with the potential to reduce the distance of nearly six km between the two cities, ultimately saving 25 minutes for motorists.

As part of the highway increase, the missing link is a top priority for the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) as more than a lakh of vehicles use the Mumbai-Pune highway every day. . For those who travel frequently, this enhanced connectivity project will go the extra mile.

While performing civil works on the project, the MSRDC faced unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic, including technical difficulties in the proposed design.

Radheshyam Mopalwar, vice president and general manager of MSRDC, told the Free Press Journal that the company is regularly monitoring the project progress report. He said: “Communication and meetings are more frequent with designated contractors to discuss and decide on work strategies. Once commissioned, the missing link will bring major relief to commuters.

The Mumbai-Pune highway was built by the MSRDC, the state’s nodal agency for road projects. Since its commissioning in 2002, it has become a high-speed corridor connecting the two cities, making travel easier and safer in the Khandala Ghat section, and has ushered in countless development opportunities. The increase in the highway will further improve the traffic situation, officials say.

The main objective of the Missing Link project is mainly to bypass the existing section of Khandala Ghat, which in recent times has been a site of landslides during the monsoon. Currently, the Mumbai-Pune highway and NH-4 meet near the Khalapur tollgate and branch off near the Khandala exit. The section of the Adoshi Tunnel at the exit of Khandala is a six-lane road, but the traffic of a 10-lane highway (six lanes of the Mumbai-Pune highway and four lanes of the NH-4) extends over this section, resulting in heavy traffic. . In addition, during the monsoon, landslide incidents are reported, causing additional congestion on this section. This results in a decrease in speed and an increase in travel time. Heavier traffic during the weekends is another problem.

The length of the existing section of the Pune-Mumbai highway from the Khopoli exit to the Sinhgad Institute is currently 19 km. This distance will be reduced to 13.3 km after the construction of the missing link. This link would start in Khopoli and lead to Kusgaon at the Pune end of the highway, through an interchange. The total length of the highway from Mumbai to Pune will be reduced by six km, reducing the journey time from 20 to 25 minutes.

The project includes two tunnels, two viaducts, three bridges over 30 meters long, a small bridge, culverts (11 tube culverts and two rectangular culverts), a 4 + 4 lane highway and a 100-meter right-of-way. Currently, tunneling work is carried out by a controlled blasting method.

An MSRDC official said work is currently underway in the Adit tunnels. In this project, there are three Adits. Typically, a gallery is an almost horizontal passage or tunnel that provides access to the underground workings of a tunnel. It also facilitates ventilation in the tunnel area. As there are some level differences in the Ghat section due to the hilly terrain, the path is uneven. The official said: “Therefore, the Adit tunnel is of great help. In addition, in this project there are 32 cross passages in the twin tunnels every 300 meters, of which 10 have been completed to date. Cross passages allow access from one tunnel to another in an emergency such as a broken down car or for maintenance purposes.

For a rapid implementation of the project, the MSRDC had divided the work into two lots. Package-I consists of two eight-lane tunnels of 1.75 km and 8.92 km, respectively. Package II includes two eight-lane viaducts of 790m and 650m, respectively, and the capacity increase (from six to eight lanes) of the existing Pune-Mumbai highway from the Khalapur toll gate to the exit from Khopoli (6.5 km).

Contractors for the project:

Hyderabad-based Navyuga Engineering was awarded the Package -I job which includes two tunnels. The works contract was awarded in February 2019. Afcons Infrastructure was entrusted with the work of Lot II, which includes the viaducts. The work order was given in March 2019.

The two contractors were allocated a 36-month work period, with civil works on both lots scheduled to be completed by April and March 2023. However, the coronavirus-induced lockdown resulted in a migration of hands. -work and the project deadline has been extended from six to eight months. , MSRDC officials said.

Land acquired for the project:

For the right-of-way, 128.0295 hectares of land were acquired, including 74.7102 hectares of forest land, for which the necessary authorizations were taken in June 2019. Authorization from the Impact Assessment Authority on the state environment was granted to carry out work on forest land. Instead of affected forest land, which involves cutting 5,500 trees, MSRDC is required to plant 40,000 trees on the unoccupied land around the highway. These trees will be maintained for five years. In addition, the authority gave an equal plot of land in Jalna to the state forestry department, for which it paid Rs 25 lakh per hectare for the reforestation activity.

Extension of tolls and recovery of project costs:

The concession period for tolls on the motorway, which lasted until May 2030, has been extended until April 2045, following the new Missing Link project. Last year in April, the MSRDC sold the highway toll rights for 11 years for Rs 8,534 crore and the initial payment was Rs 6,500 crore.

This toll money is used to reimburse the cost of the Mumbai-Pune Missing Link project (increase). The MSRDC has been authorized by the state to increase toll rates by 18% every three years. IRB (Ideal Road Builders) is the toll agency commissioned for the motorway.

Project execution on EPC model:

The execution of the missing link was approved on the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) model, at an estimated cost of Rs 6,695.36 crore.

Safety in tunnels:

More than 130 crore rupees will be spent just on fire safety measures and rescue equipment inside the twin tunnels. These include sprinklers, smoke detection alarms, rapid response vehicles, among others. In the event of a fire inside the tunnel, until the fire brigade reaches the emergency point, the sprinklers automatically extinguish the fire.

CM’s first one-off visit:

In 2020, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and State Minister of Urban Development Eknath Shinde, along with MSRDC project officials, visited the project construction site and reviewed the work in progress.

Wind test of the viaduct /

cable-stayed bridges:

Before starting the actual work on the viaducts, general wind tests of a prototype structure are carried out.

The MSRDC carried out similar tests during the construction of the cable-stayed Bandra Worli Sealink. Currently, he is reviewing comments made by a Canada-based agency on wind tests related to Missing Link Viaducts.

Asked about it, Mopalwar said: “We want the best quality structure to be built, and there are four stages – wind test, proof consultant, IIT and authority engineers – and only after. having taken all the recommendations and eliminated all the technical problems, the work will begin. However, the project includes various other components such as tunnels, on which work is proceeding at high speed. “

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Posted on: Wednesday Aug 11, 2021 12:24 am IST


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