The Eastern Freeway is a controlled-access freeway, in Mumbai , that connects P D'Mello Road in South Mumbai to the Eastern Express Highway (EEH) at Ghatkopar . It is 16.8 km long and its estimated cost is 1436 crore (US$240 million). The Eastern Freeway was built by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and funded by the Central Government through the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM).
Construction was contracted to Simplex Infrastructure Ltd. Nearly 35,000 vehicles travel on the Eastern Freeway daily .
A 13.59 km stretch of the freeway, comprising two of three segments with one of the twin tunnels, from Orange Gate on P D'Mello Road up to Panjarpol , near RK Studios in Chembur, was opened to the public on 14 June 2013. The second tunnel was opened on 12 April 2014. The third segment from Panjarpol to Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road(GMLR) was opened in April 2014. Heavy vehicles except public buses, three-wheelers, two-wheelers, bullock carts, handcarts and pedestrians are prohibited from using the freeway. Vehicles are also prohibited from halting on the freeway. The maximum allowed speed limit is 60kmph.
The Eastern Freeway is primarily intended to reduce travel time between South Mumbai and the Eastern Suburbs. It is also expected to ease traffic on Dr BR Ambedkar Road , P D’Mello road , the Eastern Express Highway (EEH) and Mohammad Ali Road. The freeway will also decongest Sion , Chembur and Dadar , and provide uninterrupted travel to commuters arriving from the Eastern Suburbs, Navi Mumbai , Panvel and Pune .
A freeway to connect the Eastern Suburbs with South Mumbai , was also proposed in the Central Road Research Institute's transport improvement plan for Bombay in 1983. It also recommended a western freeway to connect the Western Suburbs with South Mumbai. However, the plan was not given serious consideration until about 2003, when work on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL), which was part of the proposed Western Freeway, had begun. It led to an increase in traffic in eastern Mumbai, and the MMRDA decided to consider building the Eastern Freeway. The MMRDA sent a proposal to the Central Government seeking funds under the JnNURM, and the project was sanctioned funds up to 35% of its cost. The MMRDA called for bid in 2007, and construction of the main freeway began in January 2008, except for the Anik-Panjarpol link road on which construction had begun in 2004. The Eastern Freeway was scheduled to be completed by 18 January 2011 but faced several delays due to obtaining permissions for construction in forest and salt pan areas, reclaiming of land and difficulties posed by unmapped underground utilities in the construction work. The delays also escalated the cost of the 9.29 km elevated road from the initial 5.31 billion (US$89 million) to 5.72 billion (US$96 million). Construction of the Anik-Panjarpol link road was heavily delayed as the MMRDA had to negotiate with various groups to shift more than 5,000 structures, most of which were encroachments. MMRDA struggled to get the right of way, or ownership of land along the alignment until 2009. Construction of the third segment, the Panjarpol-Ghatkopar link road, began in August 2009, although the MMRDA obtained complete right way for that section only in early May 2013.
Another major cause for delay was in getting clearance from the salt pans commissioner, to take the elevated freeway for about a kilometre through salt pan land near Mahul. Despite the MMRDA sending a letter seeking clearance in 2003, they received approval only in 2011, with the rider that the MMRDA had to pay lease at 6% of the ready reckoner rate for erecting a few pillars. According to the MMDRA additional metropolitan commissioner, Ashwini Bhide, "Taking possession of the salt pan land, struggling for it and ultimately establishing this missing link was, I would say, the most challenging task in the construction of the freeway". Delays were also caused as the MMRDA had to coordinate with more than 10 agencies, including the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPt), customs, the salt pans commissioner, the environment department, the municipal corporation, the traffic police, BSNL, Hindustan Petroleum, Bharat Petroleum, Indian Oil and Tata for acquiring land, for shifting underlying utilities, and/or for general permissions.
The Eastern Freeway, constructed by Simplex Infrastructures Ltd for MMRDA, received the OHSAS 18001:2007 (Occupational Health And Safety Management System) and ISO 14001:2004 (Environment Management System) certification in April 2013. The certification was awarded to the project by M/s Intertek India (P) Limited, a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited certification body.
A 14 km section of the 17 km Eastern Freeway was completed by 24 May 2013, and was ready to be thrown open to the public.However, the MMRDA headed by Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan claimed that it was not ready and repeatedly postponed the inauguration because he wanted someone from the Gandhi family or a high profile Union Minister to inaugurate it. Chavan had promised to open the freeway on 7 June 2013, when he inaugurated the Milan flyover in May 2013. The delay in opening the freeway led to criticism from transport experts and the media, and protests from angry Mumbai residents. The problem was exacerbated by heavy monsoon rains that caused most other roads to be water logged. An expert committee's report on the formation of potholes following the opening of the Lalbaug flyover a few years prior to the freeway's opening, found that movement of traffic helps the layer of bitumen on the road's surface to settle and firm up, pre-empting formation of potholes. This movement of traffic is required before the road receives rainfall. This blamed as the reason for quick formation of potholes on the Lalbaug flyover and it is believed that the Eastern Freeway will meet the same fate as a result of the delay in opening the road to the public. A 13.59 km stretch of the Eastern Freeway, comprising the four-lane 9.29 km elevated road from Orange Gate on P D'Mello Road to the beginning of Anik-Panjarpol Link Road and four of eight lanes of the 4.3 km road-tunnel-flyover from Anik to the beginning of Panjarpol-Ghatkopar Link Road, was eventually inaugurated by the Chief Minister himself on 13 June 2013. However, the freeway could not be thrown open to the public the same day as a rain proof 80x30-metre makeshift stage with iron poles and tin sheets constructed by the MMRDA for the inauguration, stood in the middle of the road.The freeway was opened to the public the following day.
All civil work on the remaining stretch from Panjarpol to Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road (GMLR) was completed in January 2014. Engineers working on the project then concretised the surface of the Panjarpol-Ghatkopar Link Road, which begins at Panjarpol junction near R K Studio in Chembur and ends at the GMLR. When the first phase of the freeway was inaugurated in June last year, the MMRDA had planned to commission the final stretch in December 2013. However, the deadline was missed due to delays in shifting a transformer and a pumping station of the city’s civic body, which were obstructing construction on the Panjarpol side. Work at the other end of the link road also lagged due to a delay in acquiring land.
The north and south-bound ramps connecting Anik Wadala Road to the Eastern Freeway were opened to traffic on 6 April 2014. The bridges across Mahul creek and approach roads on either side of the elevated portion provide for entry and exit at Anik Wadala Link Road. These ramps can be used for to and fro movement towards north (Chembur, Navi Mumbai and further). For movement to and from south (CST) ramps can be used by taking a U-turn from under the RCF flyover. Road signages help guide motorists to these ramps. The construction of these two ramps had been scheduled to complete in January 2014, but the work was delayed due to unforeseen technical reasons.
The freeway was built in three segments - a 9.3 km elevated road from Orange Gate on P D'Mello Road to the beginning of Anik-Panjarpol Link Road , a 5 km mostly at grade road featuring twin tunnels from Anik to the beginning of Panjarpol-Ghatkopar Link Road , and a 2.5 km flyover from Panjarpol to Ghatkopar . The three segments had originally been conceived as separate projects, with only the Orange Gate-Anik section known as the Eastern Freeway. However, the MMRDA decided to merge the three projects after construction began. The 4-lane Eastern Freeway, starts on P.D'Mello Road near Wadi Bandar, and further enters into Mumbai Port Trust road and eventually joins the EEH via Anik Panjarpol Link Road (APLR), near Wadala . The stretch from Orange Gate on P D'Mello road to Anik and from Panjarpol to Ghatkopar, near the Indian Oil Nagar junction, will be an elevated 4-lane road, while the Anik Panjarpole link road (APLR), which has the twin tunnels, will be an 8-lane at grade section.
P D'Mello Road to Anik
The first section has a length of 9.3 km, width of 17.2 meters and connects P D'Mello Road to Anik . This phase also includes ground improvement of existing roads, the construction of a 4-lane elevated corridor and the construction of a missing link. This stretch is made up of 4 sections, and has 5 ramps for exit and entry at Reay Road , Port Road, Anik and Orange Gate.
- Section I – From S.V Patel road junction on P D'Mello road to Orange Gate consisting of up and down ramps (0.41 km)
- Section II – Orange gate to Mumbai Port Trust (Mbpt) pipeline gate – elevated corridor (7.02 km)
- Section III – Mbpt pipe line gate to WTT road consisting of construction of elevatod corridor through salt pan (Missing Link) and Customs area (0.78 km)
- Section IV – WTT road near customs area to start of APLR - Elevated corridor (1.08 km)
Civil construction work on this section was completed on 9 March 2013. This 9.29 km stretch from Orange Gate on P D'Mello Road to the Mahul creek salt pan between Anik and Chembur is the longest flyover in Mumbai and third longest flyover in India, after the 25 km Kanpur city bypass flyover on NH-2 and the 11.6 km P.V. Narasimha Rao Elevated Expressway in Hyderabad. The elevated road has 478 spans and its surface is composed of a bitumen layer atop concrete. The other sections of the freeway do not have a bitmuen layer. The MMRDA claims that this was done deliberately, "as bitumen makes a road vulnerable to rapid wear and tear, especially in a place like Mumbai that gets heavy rain". The MMRDA also claims that bitumen on elevated sections will minimise vibrations. The carpeting of the elevated road will have to be maintained every 4–5 years, compared to once in 15 years for a cement road. This segment was opened to the public on 14 June 2013, along with four lanes of the Anik - Panjarpol link road.
The second segment is the 8-lane, 5 km long Anik - Panjarpol link road. It begins at Bhakti Park and ends near the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj statue in
Chembur. This stretch required the construction of Mumbai's first twin tunnel beginning from Ashok Nagar at the footsteps of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) mountain and ends at Gautam Nagar near Panjarpol. The twin tunnels are 505m (North-bound) and 555m (South-bound) in length; 18 metres in width and 9 metres in height. They were built at a cost of 80 crore (US$13 million), required 1,200 tonnes of steel and produced 75,000 cubic metres of debris, which was utilized for the construction of the Anik-Panjarpol link road. The tunnels are 7m apart, and each contains 4 carriageways The twin tunnels are India's first tunnel systems to be built within city limits for urban transport. More than 200 labourers worked on construction of the tunnel, drilling and blasting through rock.
This segment was opened to traffic on 14 June 2013. However, only the North-bound tunnel was opened on that date providing two-lanes each for up and down traffic. The South-bound tunnel was opened to traffic from 12 April 2014, making the entire stretch 8-lane. Authorities initially expected to complete the tunnels within 18 months, but land acquisition and geological issues led to delays. About 1,500 encroachments on the mountains, where the tunnels had to be blasted, were cleared. The rock to be blasted was found to be weaker than expected, which posed a challenge. After construction began, engineers came across a kind of rock that softens when it comes in contact with water. The MMRDA had to investigate before proceeding, as it did not knowing how to deal with the stone. Engineers used a process that stabilises excavations with anchor bolts, and applied a cement grout to the surface to counter the weak soil strata. The tunnels were given a concrete lining.
The third segment consists of a 4-lane elevated 2.5 km flyover from Panjarpol till the Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road (GMLR), via Govandi. This stretch has 3 ramps near Deonar , Govandi and Panjarpol . The section consists of 103 spans. MMRDA had to rehabilitate 495 families, most of whom had encroached on the land, to construct this section. Like the elevated section of the freeway, the Panjarpol-Ghatkopar Link Road has a bitumen layer atop the concrete, ensuring smoother riding quality than a regular cement road.
All civil work on the final stretch of the Eastern Freeway, from Panjarpol to Ghatkopar-Mankhurd Link Road (GMLR), was completed in January 2014. Engineers working on the project then concretised the surface of the Panjarpol-Ghatkopar Link Road, which begins at Panjarpol junction near R K Studio in Chembur and ends at the GMLR. When the first phase of the freeway was inaugurated in June 2013, the MMRDA had planned to commission the final stretch in December 2013. However, the deadline was missed due to delays in shifting a transformer and a pumping station of the city’s civic body, which
were obstructing construction on the Panjarpol side. Work at the other end of the link road also lagged due to a delay in acquiring land.
The north and south-bound ramps connecting Anik Wadala Road to the Eastern Freeway were opened to traffic on 6 April 2014. The bridges across Mahul creek and approach roads on either side of the elevated portion provide for entry and exit at Anik Wadala Link Road . These ramps can be used for to and fro movement towards north (Chembur , Navi Mumbai and further). For movement to and from south (CST) ramps can be used by taking a U-turn from under the RCF flyover. Road signages help guide motorists to these ramps. The construction of these two ramps had been scheduled to complete in January 2014, but the work was delayed due to unforeseen technical reasons.
The MMRDA installed 3 m high vision barriers or view cutters for about 2.3 km on the eastern side and about 700m on the western side, along the 3 km Sewri-Wadala stretch of the Eastern Freeway. On the eastern side, the MMRDA will install view barriers from Sewri railway station to nearly Mahul while on the western side barriers will stretch from Veg Oil junction in Wadala to near Mahul. The view cutters are steel structures made of a light-weight sheet and cost 2.68 crore (US$450,000) to install. The view cutters are intended to protect petroleum refineries and other sensitive installations along the stretch. Oil companies such as Hindustan Petroleum, Bharat Petroleum and Indian Oil requested the MMRDA to install the view cutters after seeking the opinion of the Mumbai Police. According to Jaywant Dhane, executive engineer at the MMRDA, "Police officials have also observed that these establishments can be very vulnerable to terror attacks by throwing of hand grenades or other ammunition from the Eastern Freeway". Since the Eastern Freeway will be a toll-free road without any signals, the MMRDA also installed crash barriers made of metal beam on both sides of the divider for the entire length of the corridor at the a cost of 5 crore (US$840,000). The MMRDA also installed one metre steel crash barriers in the median along the freeway. The barrier will keep any vehicle that crashes into it on the same side of the road, minimising the severity of the accident.
Thirteen MMRDA engineers, 82 contractors and around 1100 labourers worked on the project. Construction of the freeway required the use of 30.25 lakh bags of cement, 43,100 tonnes of iron rods and 3150 tonnes of high pressure iron. The project involved the rehabilitation of around 5500 houses, out of which 300 were commercial settlements. Thirty 30 religious locations belonging to different religions were relocated for the project. The MMRDA also had to increase the height of high voltage electric wires while building the elevated road, and had to relocate the underground amenities.
The Eastern Freeway is the second project in Mumbai to have seismic arresters. The first was Bandra–Worli Sea Link. Seismic arresters will enable the freeway to withstand earthquakes measuring 7.5 on the Richter scale.
Several bus services are operated on the Eastern Freeway, mostly connecting the Eastern and Harbour Suburbs with South Mumbai and further down to Navi Mumbai. Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST) operates services from Cuffe Parade to Vashi, Mantralaya to Govandi , and Mantralaya to Shivaji Nagar (C-8) via the Eastern Freeway. The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) operates 2x2 seating buses between Mantralaya and Panvel daily over the Eastern Freeway. These fast track corridor buses have halts at Vashi, Nerul, Belapur and Kamothe en route. BEST also plans to introduce bus services, connecting south Mumbai to Trombay
The MSRTC began running AC buses from Panvel to Mantralaya on 23 September 2013, marking the first time that AC buses plied on the Eastern Freeway. AC buses to South Mumbai had been operated by the NMMT prior to MSRTC's service, but the latter was the first time that the bus is taking the Eastern Freeway route.
BEST has stated that the Eastern Freeway saves travel time of at least 20 minutes, and ensures that buses are not delayed due to any traffic snarls because it bypasses crowded localities like Parel , Dadar and Sion .