The state government’s ambitious project, Mumbai-Nagpur expressway, is expected to be ready for vehicular movement by May 2022, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), which is executing the project, announced on Thursday.
Once fully operational, motorists can travel between the capital and the second capital of Maharashtra in eight hours, said Radheshyam Mopalwar, vice-chairman and managing director, MSRDC. Currently, the journey between both the cities takes 16 hours.
Until now, 152.17km-stretch of work has been completed for the 701-km corridor, Mopalwar said. According to him, the expressway will be made operational in three stages. Around 520km between Nagpur and Shirdi will be operational by May 1, 2021, as part of Phase-1, while another 100km-work will be completed in the following six months by December 2021, making the stretch between Shirdi and Igatpuri operational.
By May 1, 2022, the remaining 78km-work will be completed, making the entire expressway open to traffic.
“There might be a gap of around 50km in the two districts of Washim and Buldhana, but our target is to make Phase-1 operational by next year. We are racing against time to complete it,” said Mopalwar.
Like several infrastructure projects in Mumbai, the Rs 55,000 crore was also affected owing to the pandemic-ensued lockdown. “We had almost 18,000 workers before the lockdown which went down to 10,000 in the months during the lockdown. But most of the workers started coming in by July-August. Now there are more than 20,000 people working on the project,” Mopalwar said adding that the initial target to get the corridor fully operational was January 2022.
The project is called Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Mahamarg or the prosperity corridor. It was initiated by the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)- led government and was seen as a pet project of the then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. The ambitious expressway will connect 10 districts, 26 talukas and 392 villages between Mumbai and Nagpur. With 24 interchanges, it will also connect many tourism locations such as the Lonar lake, Ajanta-Ellora caves, Pench National Park, Shegaon, Sevagram, Shirdi, Bibi Ka Maqbara and Daulatabad.
In 2017, farmers across 10 districts opposed land acquisition for the project. However, Mopalwar said that the entire acquisition process has been completed smoothly.
The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government that took over the project after coming into power in November 2019 and named it after Shiv Sena’s founder, the late Bal Thackeray.
The government is also developing Krishi Samruddhi Kendras or new townships along the corridor. Of the 20 proposed townships, MSRDC is currently working on the development plan for eight townships along the expressway. Each of the townships is expected to be developed in an area of 1,000-1,500 hectares with adequate infrastructure facilities.
MSRDC is also looking to lease out its land parcels at Nepean Sea Road and Bandra in Mumbai, as well as some parcels along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, and in Pune and Kolhapur to raise Rs15,000-crore revenue for the project.
“We are ready with the proposals but were advised by our consultants to not enter the market now. We will take a concrete decision in the next 15 days,” Mopalwar said.