Ending a 20-year wait
The Missing Link Project on Mumbai-Pune route will allow motorists to bypass the dangerous Khandala Ghat section; Cut down travel time by 20 mins
If you follow news, it is quite likely you may have heard, or, read about the Missing Link Project on the Mumbai-Pune highway. This under-construction route between Khopoli to Kusgaon will bypass Khandala Ghat and bring sister cities Mumbai and Pune even closer. You may also have undoubtedly wondered how the name for this project came to be. A quest into deconstructing this interesting nomenclature reveals its deep roots.
“The most critical aspect of the Missing Link Project is that it will bypass the dangerous ghat section, which is the trickiest part of Mumbai-Pune journey,” says Ranjit Kumar Jha, Project Manager. In fact, this priority section was conceived way back during the construction of the New Mumbai-Pune Expressway at the turn of the millennium. “This route has always been viewed as the safer and quicker alternative even when the New Expressway was constructed between 1997-2000. However, owing to the perilous topography of the ghat section as well as lack of necessary engineering acumen, the defined route had to be altered to the existing one,” he informs.
"This route has always been viewed as the safer and quicker alternative even when the new expressway was constructed between 1997-2000. However, owing to the perilous topography of the ghat section as well as lack of necessary engineering acumen, the defined route had to be altered to the existing one."
Ranjit Kumar Jha, Project Manager
Twenty years later, there is a pressing need to make this strategic route safer as well as less congested. “This project will have two viaducts and two tunnels. Afcons’ scope includes augmenting the existing expressway and constructing two eight-lane cable stayed bridges of 650m and 750m in Phase-2,” adds Jha.
Unfortunately, the high-speed route, which sees over one lakh vehicles plying daily, consistently grabs headlines for heavy traffic as well as frequent mishaps. “Khandala Ghat section is a deadly accident spot, especially during rains as landslides are common occurrence here. A major bottleneck between Adoshi Tunnel and Khandala exit significantly slows down traffic. The Missing Link Project will address both these issues. Once ready, the distance between Mumbai to Pune will be reduced by 6 kms and travel time by 20-25 minutes,” he explains.
The Afcons team has come a long way in the past two years, says Jha adding, “When we first visited the site, it was merely a dense forest. We trekked all the way to the site with the help of lathis. And not to mention the snakes! The location, terrain and the weather – we are being challenged by these factors.”
Afcons has already widened 5.8 kms of the existing expressway. This was a challenge as the team had to create fresh foundations aligned with the existing bridges section of the expressway ‘without having the original drawings of the expressway’. However, the tougher job is yet to be accomplished.
Jha explains the cable stayed bridges comprise 70% of the job. “The 170m tall parallel structures will rest in a windy valley, their decks at approximately 100m from the ground level. Slipform methodology will be used to construct these bridges. Designing them are proving to be the biggest challenge. At present, wind tunnel testing is being conducted to ascertain the viability of the design,” he adds.
Jha is quick to add that strict safety measures are put into place to ensure all activities are undertaken smoothly. “We know this a very busy route, and, therefore, traffic diversions are diligently put into place so there are no disruptions during the activities. Working in the valley region is also challenging, and we have ensured adequate signages to ensure safety at work site,” he says.
The site is located at a tough terrain, which interestingly, is just a few kilometres from where the historic Battle of Umberkhind took place between Chhatrapati Shivaji’s Maratha Army and the Mughals. “We draw great inspiration from the history of this region. This is where Shivaji Maharaj used the famous guerrilla warfare to beat the mighty Mughals. I believe, just like them, we, too, will beat all challenges and emerge victorious,” Jha responds with a clever quip.
Scope of Work
• Widening 5.8km of existing Expressway, including major and minor bridges, 1 vehicular and passenger underpass each and 12 culverts
• 2 eight-lane cable stayed bridges of 650m and 750m length
• Slip Road
• 3 toll plazas 1 each at Khalapur, Shedung and Talegaon