On any normal weekday morning, if you take a peek into Google maps with Traffic on, and zoom into the East of Bengaluru, you can see some dark lines forming around Tin Factory. This gets input from two green lines – the Old Madras Road and the Outer Ring Road from Kalyan Nagar. The ORR from Kalyan Nagar used to be a mess, but these days things seem to be in some sort of control. This dark line extends all the way till the KR Puram Railway station, becoming green again as traffic rushes out from that point, like kids after school, enjoying absolute freedom until the Mahadevapura flyover.
At this point, private vehicles heading towards Marathahalli take the flyover while buses are forced into the Mahadevapura gap, between the flyovers. On most days, if no truck has rammed into the bridge, buses spend a good 5-10 minutes passing this gap.
Traffic wardens struggle to stem the flow of cross traffic, and instead decide to just hold up onwards bus traffic. It doesn’t help that the service road from KR Puram side is now blocked, forcing cars that want to go towards Mahadevapura into the Mahadevapura gap.
After this, the relative calm extends only up to the ambitiously named, perennially under construction, Bagmane World Technology Centre. The flyover right after has been under construction for close to 1.5 years now, and while it looks all set for an opening from the road side, a cursory glance upwards as you are passing by it will reveal that there’s going to be no nirvana any time soon.
Soon after, the road takes a dip and passes under a railway line, what is called by the police as “Selam Bridge”. After that, there are reds and greens all the way till Silk Board, but for now this article concerns itself only until this section of the road.
Now, let’s go back by approximately one year.
19th May 2016
Commuters wake up after a night of massive pre-monsoon showers, to a massive pileup which stretches all the way from the Salem Railway Bridge to KR Puram. This merges with the Tin Factory pileup and creates a 5.5 Km long pileup.
Turns out that this was among the first of the “Salem bridge” pileups for the year.
7th June 2016
Things keep repeating, but June seems somewhat benign. Waterlogging is the issue only once. Vehicle breakdowns, and general randomness take over the rest of the days.
For what it's worth, the BBMP Commissioner did note the complaint down, and even gave a docket number.
You'd expect things to have improved, now that there was a Docket Number. Well, you won't be surprised. Things flared up again towards the end of the month. Multiple traffic pileups met each other, merged and the mother of all ORR pile-ups was born.
It was a week of misery, and culminated in the Madiwala Lake overflowing, and people fishing on the ORR at BTM Layout.
Some investigation was made, and the problem diagnosed.
This was assumed to have fixed the issue. Or maybe not.
After July, the rains let up in Bengaluru, and we settled into the dry period that followed, which developed into the current massive drought. But there still was one last salvo the rains had to fire.
The rest of the year was peaceful in terms of flooding with only broken down buses, and buses jumping medians causing traffic.
2016 passed, and 2017 came in. The city stood facing a massive water shortage as the rains that had caused much havoc had not been of any use to the faraway Kaveri.
Early March, there were reports of impending rain that could help dispel the slow buildup of heat that summer these days is. People waited with bated breath, hoping that the rains don’t affect the cricket match. And in the misconception that it could help solve the water crisis.
It rained on the evening of the March 7th 2017. There were some rains the previous day in the Western and Northern suburbs, nothing on the East or South. On the 7th night, the rains truly arrived. 8th morning, International Women’s Day dawned. And people woke up to find themselves once again in a traffic pile-up, from the same Salem railway bridge
It started there, brought traffic to a standstill near EMC, backed up to Mahadevapura, and rapidly piled on till KR Puram. The pileup from Tin Factory joined this, and spread backwards. People walking out of Byappanahalli Metro Station saw traffic at a standstill right in front. It looked like the everyday pile-up, except that this one stretched all the way till the Railway Underbridge. 6.7 kms!
On the other side, Banaswadi was breached and Kalyan Nagar seemed within range. “We’ll have breakfast in Kalyan Nagar and lunch in Banaswadi,” some were overheard.
As more buildings come up on the ORR, we are able to get better, larger scale views of the traffic jams and take better quality pictures to Tweet.
A week before all this, the Minister for Bengaluru Development and Town Planning, while announcing the shelving of the Rs. 2000 crore steel flyover had said that some people are not letting him solve traffic problems in the city. Given that it’s now the second year of this issue (that I know of, long timers might beg to differ), and it is not likely to cost anywhere close to Rs 2000 crore, would he be interested in fixing this soon?
The area Corporator, Ms. Shweta Kumar, was apparently not available for comment, but her husband Vijaykumar has promised a solution in 15 days. A solution cannot happen overnight, and whether any work is happening there or not can be seen by commuters passing that bridge. And the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, or in this case the flooding or the lack of it. So then, until it rains next time. Or maybe not!