Monday, August 23, 2010

Lalbagh Rd too needs flowery touch

Lalbagh Rd too needs flowery touch

A quarter of this one-kilometre stretch was widened way back in 1975. Even people who built homes after that had left space for widening. After decades, the BBMP is finally planning to act. But such an exercise is not going to yield results as vehicular population has increased several-fold over the years

Shilpa CB



"It is a VIP road," says grocery shop owner GS Prabhakar proudly pointing at Lalbagh Road. Rahul Gandhi passed this way recently, he adds trying to give a rosy picture of the stretch that leads to the famous botanical garden.
The real picture, however, is quite grim. Peak hour traffic congestion is among the many woes on the list. Would putting it through a major surgery called widening turn things around? It just might, locals hope.
A quarter of the one-km stretch was widened long back in 1975.
Prabhakar's family living here for more than 60 years had to give up 25 ft of their property for which they were paid "government rates". Even new buildings that came up after that have left space in front for the road widening which has not been done so far.
"Everywhere, the project has faced opposition. Here, that is not the case. Owners have stepped out of the way long back. Why is the widening still not being done," he asks.
Fifteen years ago, Prabhakar even approached the then mayor and resented a request that the road be widened uniformly as land was already available. "The mayor called his subordinate and directed him to do it. The latter promised that he would get it done immediately. Nothing has changed," he says.
His neighbour E Manuel also had to give up over 17 feet for widening the first time it was done in that part. It has become a big, broad road but crossing it has become an ordeal. Also the noise of traffic from the roads does not make the area congenial for peaceful living. "Things were not this bad when the stretch was a two-way. Congestion only increased after it became a one way," he says.
The recently-introduced traffic signal near Poornima Theatre adds to the problem. "Earlier, there used to be a policeman here who would manage the flow well. His absence and the automatic signal have made matters worse," says Amy Kezia Manuel, a student.
These developments were inevitable as the traffic flow on neighbouring roads took different directions.
Lined with dilapidated buildings, tiny commercial spaces with shutters down, petty shops, and vacant sites, Lalbagh Road is a sorry sight. Prime real estate is not being given its due. What was once a quiet residential area has turned into a busy thoroughfare as neighbouring roads went from being two-ways to one ways.
"This was a dead road, a desolate unutilised stretch. Vehicles barely passed this way as the four surrounding roads – JC Road, Double Road, Lalbagh Fort Road and Hosur Road – could more than manage the load. I thought these changes would be good for business here. I was wrong," says a businessman requesting anonymity.
Most properties are locked in litigation, a few crumbling low constructions belong to the BBMP, there are plenty of vacant sites that are just being left without being developed, he says.
"It is as if someone has done black magic on this road. No development has happened in several decades," he says. It has turned into a blind spot despite being at the heart of the city and being used by VIPs and tourists from around the world.
Trucks, tempos, and goods autos frequent the 'transport area' and these violate parking norms with help from the traffic policemen, people say. Fingers point in all directions.
"Lorries, containers that transport two-wheelers, and goods tempos are parked for hours together here," they all say. "Only strict policing can contain the menace."
The policemen also can "do something" about the bar and wine shop that cater to the workers that come into the transport area.
Further down the stretch, the new Passport Seva Kendra, MTR, and Urvashi theatre show some signs of life. This is a narrow stretch and it adds to the congestion, people say.
The perpendicular Poornima Theatre Road, where Jain College is also located, is a two-way with a barricade. Parking is not allowed here but that rule is violated all the time, especially when there is a function. Absence of boards saying 'no free left turn' into Lalbagh Road is also responsible for this.
"How can the police fine people if they have not put up boards or replaced them if they have been stolen," a shop keeper asks. The parking problem would intensify once works on the three commercial complexes are completed.
"As luck would have it, construction of the CSI complex came to a halt two years ago. Further down, near Lalbagh, a complex is coming up. Even that might take long to be ready," says Prabhakar.
He has a few ideas: Allow parking in front of Lalbagh where there is plenty of space. Those unfamiliar with the area might come looking for parking and when denied, they are forced to take a circuitous route to return to the other gate where parking is available. Also, at the entrance of Lalbagh Fort Road, there is a small space left. Parking can be allowed here as well. What the road needs most is colour. The stretch can be adorned with beautiful, flowering plants. The road leading to Lalbagh should be beautiful, not a blind spot.

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