The Pragati Maidan integrated transit corridor project, which was initially expected to be completed by 2019 and has missed at least six deadlines, will be inaugurated on Sunday by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but commuters will have to wait a little longer for a critical underpass link that is a key component of the project.
The integrated corridor project entails a six lane 1.4-kilometre-long tunnel under Pragati Maidan connecting Mathura road and Ring road and six underpasses — five on Mahtura Road and the one on the Ring Road.
LC Goyal, chairman and managing director of ITPO India Trade Promotion Organization, said that the main tunnel and five underpasses will be launched on Sunday while the underpass which is located at the junction of Bhairon Marg and Ring Road will be launched after 4-6 week period. The ITPO is implementing the Pragati Maidan redevelopment project, and the tunnel and underpasses are part of the overall revamp plan.
The underpass on Bhairon Marg-Ring Road junction will enable signal-free movement between the two inter state bus terminuses (ISBTs) at Sarai Kale Khan and Kashmere Gate,an official associated with the project explained.
A Public Works Department (PWD) official said the underpass has some “linking work” left, and was one of the most challenging underground passes to be built since it has three active railway lines passing above it. “While the main tunnel under Pragati Maidan is the largest active tunnel for traffic in Delhi, the Bhairon Marg underpass was even more challenging as the construction site has three railway lines — – one over the Bhairon Marg and two on either side of the Ring Road. Construction work cannot be carried out with railway corridor being actively used for train movement,” the official said.
PWD officials say that the it was almost impossible to have a surface level separator due to the railway lines. They said of the main tunnel and six underpasses under the project, box pushing technique has been used only for the main tunnel and the Bhairon Marg underpass. In box pushing technique, concrete boxes are cast outside in segments and then they pushed through heavy road embankments by jacking for creating an underground passage.
The official explained that they got a construction window of a total of four hours, of which only 1-1.5 hours was used to push concrete boxes underneath and the rest to readjust and repair the railway tracks above.
The officials said the Bhairon Marg site also faced another critical drawback in terms of repeated dewatering of the site. “The are is located right next to Yamuna floodplain and the water table rise is quite high there,” official added.
S Velmurugan, chief scientist, Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), agreed with the PWD in multiple challenges posed by the construction at the underpass on Bhairon Marg. “This is the only point where vehicles have to spend idle time. Beyond this point, the commuters can take the flyover near ITO and Ring Road bypass for signal free access up to Kashmere Gate. So, this will decongest 7-8 km road stretch.”
He added the overall project that help decongest the area, including ITO, Mathura Road, Bhairon Marg, and Ring Road as well as improve access to New Delhi from south and east Delhi. “The Delhi traffic police should use ample signage and variable sign message boards to inform the commuters about the changes in this stretch,” he added.
Spread over 114 acres in Central Delhi, work on the redevelopment of Pragati Maidan started in 2018 and was scheduled to be completed by the second half of 2020. It is now expected to be completed by September.
Of the 114 acres, 87 acres are being redeveloped. The ₹2700-crore project involves the construction of seven new start-of-the-art exhibition halls, a 7000-seating capacity convention centre (a plenary hall with 3000 capacity and a multi-purpose hall of 4,000 capacity), a five-star hotel, green spaces, parking for close to 5,000 vehicles etc.
The revamped exhibition-cum-convention centre is likely to be the venue for the G-20 summit next year.
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