This Sunday, on Diwali-eve, Chennai got its first grade separator - at Kathipara. This was a project marred by delays. Originally due to open in April 2007, one portion connecting GST Road and Inner Ring Road was opened in March 2008. All arms were thrown open on this Sunday i.e. October 26, 2008 after an inauguration by CM Karunanidhi.
When I went past it on Tuesday morning, I could clearly be seen that the project had been completed in haste and inagurated as a face-saving measure. There were absolutely no finishing touches and the grade separator didn't look brand new from any angle. When I traveled across the GST-IRR grade separator in March, I had seen the poor finishing touches on that stretch. Then, I had hoped that all would be set right when the project was completed fully. But, that was not to be.
Leave alone finishing touches. People can manage with shoddy work. But how can people manage without signboards? On Tuesday morning, I saw vehicles coming on the wrong side, for there were no signboards to indicate the routes. Grade-separators can be confusing. In fact, rade-separators without proper signboards are like death-traps. Indeed, that was what happened. The next day, I read in The Hindu that the grade separtor had claimed its first victim. (http://www.hindu.com/2008/10/29/stories/2008102958550300.htm). As I said earlier, grade-separators must have proper signages, more so, when people haven't been exposed to such stuff before. But then, that's not always the case. Especially, if it's Chennai.
Even now, I fail to understand the delay in the project. The Hindu claimed it was "contractual problems and escalation in the cost of raw materials". Whatever they say, the delay is unexplainable. Tamil Nadu has a lot of clout in the UPA government at the center. TN MPs have plum ministries including Surface Transport and Highways. What prevented Mr T. R. Balu, the Highways Minister from using his good offices for the benefit of his people, many of whom spent a lot of time waiting at the construction site morning and evening due to traffic jams? Fine, even if he didn't want to appear prejudiced towards his home state, why should he make statements about the project being 'ahead of schedule'? If you don't believe me, read up at http://www.hindu.com/2005/09/26/stories/2005092614620300.htm. Now, can someone explain?