SCENIC HIGHWAY TO HELL

Chennai, Feb. 23: The East Coast Road (ECR) connecting Chennai with Cuddalore has all the makings of a deathtrap. With insufficient lighting and proper medians, it records the highest number of road accidents in the city.

To reduce accidents on the ECR, the government, in March 2015 introduced a road widening project till Mamallapuram. Dr. Narasimha Rao, Independent Director of Tamil Nadu Road Development Corporation (TNRDC) which handles ‘Project ECR’ said that it would take another three months to install proper lights and put up CCTV cameras along the ECR.

the_beautiful_ecr_highway
The East Coast Road.

On Sunday afternoon, three Metropolitan Transport Corporation buses collided against each other on the narrow Muttukadu Bridge. Two new bridges are coming up on either side of the old bridge and Dr. Rao said once the new bridges are completed, the old bridge will be broken and reconstructed.

The entire stretch of ECR from Kottivakkam to Kovalam lacks street lights and becomes extremely dangerous during the night. “The government is phasing out the old lights and LED lights are being put on. Indian Road Congress handles lighting on highways and utilization certificate is given by the Traffic Commissioner,” said P. Vijayaraj, Joint Transport Commissioner (Road Safety).

Regarding proper signboards on the highway, Mr. Vijayaraj said that black spots are identified first and then only do signboards come up. “Signboards are placed where the village road meets the highways,” added Mr. Vijayaraj.

2. The narrow Mutthukadu Bridge, where the accident took place on Sunday. Two new bridges are being built on each side of the old bridge.
The narrow Mutthukadu Bridge, where the accident took place on Sunday. Two new bridges are being built on each side of the old bridge.

The ECR which records over 7,000 accidents annually has a number of sharp curves with poor signboards and uneven roads. The dangerous curves leads to a number of accidents, especially head on collisions as there are no centre medians on the roads. S. Karuppaswamy, Regional Transport Officer (Chennai South) passed on the blame on the Transport Headquarters saying that the funds for constructing centre median gets approved from there.

Private operators running buses along ECR put experienced drivers on the route. “Drivers are checked for no consumption of alcohol before the journey. There are always two drivers in the cabin,” said Abdul Mohsin of Parveen Travels which runs buses on the ECR till Nagercoil.

Venkatarama who drives auto rickshaw in Mamallapuram is witness to a number of accidents on the East Coast Road. “Young boys get drunk and drive at [high] speed at night and early morning. There are no police to catch them,” he adds.

Construction work on ECR leaves just a narrow stretch for cars to drive on.
Construction work on ECR leaves just a narrow stretch for cars to drive on.

At present CCTV cameras are installed only at toll plazas on the scenic highway. The government should install more CCTV’s along the route in order to check the increasing number of accidents happening every day.

The ECR was formed in 1998 by interlinking a number of small village roads that connected fishing hamlets along the coast of Bay of Bengal. It now serves tourists and weekend carousers. Irrespective of developments in real estate and the tourism sector, road safety is still the major issue for the people living along the corridor.

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