After granting the Congress an overwhelming victory in the 2023 state election, Bengalureans ought to expect the newly elected government to provide decent infrastructure. Bengaluru's chronic traffic problems have plagued the city for years, forcing authorities to look at urgent solutions. To solve Bengaluru's traffic woes, the state government has proposed a tunnel road project. A tunnel connecting Bengaluru's four corners has been suggested as a long-term solution considering the city's anticipated growth. Will these mobility solutions, however, become a reality? The ambitious tunnel road plan
The ambitious tunnel road plan
The new regime is now mulling an underground tunnel road network that will span the length and breadth of the city. In order to solve the city's traffic woes, Bengaluru Development Minister and Deputy Chief Minister D.K. Shivakumar has sought a feasibility study on building roads underground. According to the proposal, the project will free up surface road space for footpaths, cycling lanes, and buses with minimum tree cutting and land acquisition. A recent meeting between the Minister and AECOM, an international design consulting firm, disclosed a plan to build tunnels measuring 99 kilometers. The tunnels are proposed to be constructed in two phases, the first of which will cover 50 km at a cost of roughly Rs 22,000 crore. The ambitious idea to connect Peenya, Hebbal, KR Puram, and Hosur via a tunnel has drawn strong criticism from both environmentalists and mobility experts. If completed, this will be one of the world's longest tunnel networks. At a meeting presided over by the Bengaluru Development Minister on building Brand Bengaluru, the government sought the opinion of various stakeholders.
A study undertaken by the Deccan Herald indicates that even with the full operation of Metro Rail Phases II and III and tripling the BMTC bus fleet to 13,000 (from the existing 6,767) the proportion of public transport may decrease to 30% by 2031 from the current 40%. Bengaluru's significant reliance on private transport is the main contributor to the city's traffic congestion.
The Urban Development Department has suggested that a feasibility study, a detailed project report, and soil testing be conducted first. Through a public-private partnership (PPP), an estimated 40% of the project's cost will be covered by the government, with the other 60% being paid for by the executing agency. With toll revenue going to the chosen agency, the state might end up spending around Rs 2,000 crore every year for 15 years. Another significant difficulty is tunneling of Bengaluru's rocky underground which Namma Metro's work faced. "The project may also affect groundwater movement", says Dr. TV Ramachandra of the Indian Institute of Science's (IISc) Centre for Ecological Science.
The proposed Tunnel work is less appealing as a 6 lane road connecting Hebbal to the airport is already operational and the work on Namma Metro line from Sarjapur to airport via Hebbal is progressing at a fairly good pace. Bengaluru can promote a model shift towards more sustainable and useful solutions by giving mass public transport efforts priority. Focusing on extending bus networks, executing proposed metro lines quickly, and expediting suburban rail projects are more workable solutions. The goal should be to reduce vehicles rather than widening roads.