Mumbaikars excited as gates open on India’s first sea bridge

Mumbai, June 30 (Inditop.com) Nearly five decades after it was conceived, India’s first sea bridge opens its toll gates in the country’s commercial and entertainment capital later Tuesday, promising to cut travel time by 80 percent to just eight minutes, bypassing 23 traffic signals that commuters have to presently endure.

Called the Bandra-Worli Sea Link (BWSL), the 5.6-km bridge on the Arabian Sea has cost Rs.1634-crore ($325 million) and the authorities hope to see some 150,000 vehicles use it each day for a toll that ranges between Rs.50 and Rs.100 per trip depending on the size of the automobile.

United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi is slated to inaugurate the gleaming new sea link, which has been billed as an engineering marvel and the most prestigious project for the Maharashtra State Road Development Corp (MSRDC) in over a decade, after the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

And Mumbaikars are visibly excited, including a galaxy of actors, corporate honchos and the everage commuter, as the sea link has surpassed all other projects of the state-run firm in terms of its sheer beauty, grandeur and the attention that it has grabbed from the whole country in the past few months.

“Last night, I specially went on the terrace of our eight-storied building to watch the laser show and the fireworks,” Helen, well-known actor and dancing star of yester years, told IANS.

“I have read a lot about how it will solve the traffic problems in Mumbai. I plan to go for a drive there soon,” added her husband and legendary scriptwriter Salim Khan, whose apartment facing the Arabian Sea is right opposite the sea link.

In fact, several Bollywood personalities – Shah Rukh Khan, Rekha, Subhash Ghai, Farhan Akhtar, A. Krishnamurthi and others – live on the promenade facing the Bandra-Worli Sea Link and most get either a balcony view or a terrace view of the magnificent bridge.

“We have been seeing the bridge come up from the construction stage and are happy that it is finally completed. It will be a great boon to the city,” said Krishnamurthi, head of Tina Films International, who can view it from the comforts of his living room.

Businessman Pratap S. Bohra, who lives in Juhu, said he had long abandoned his office in Nariman Point on account of the time wasted in the traffic.

“We kept hearing about the sea link. Now that it is ready, I am seriously planning to attend my office in south Mumbai. We hope the second phase from Worli to Nariman Point will be taken up soon,” said Bohra, who opened another office in Santacruz, a western suburb.

Others like Priyanka Uke, an executive living in Dadar, plans to commute daily on public transport using the sea link to Andheri. “I am dying to go as soon as the bus routes that will go via the sealing are announced,” she said.

Some, like jeweller V.S. Shrikrishna, are disappointed that two-wheelers shall not be permitted on the sea link. “To save time, I may go by car. But then again, I have to shell out a toll,” he said, a tad confused about his commuting plans.

A commuter by car, for instance, would have to pay toll of Rs.50 for a single trip, Rs.75 for a round trip, Rs.125 for a daily multiple-entry-exit pass and Rs. 2,500 for a similar pass for a month. The toll may be hiked in the future.

Well-known advocate J.P. Mishra is another who plans to make full use of the BWSL.

“It’s simple. Until now I used to go by train for hearings in the Bombay High Court. Now I can take my car and go by the bridge. It’s more convenient as I don’t have to wait for taxis after getting off the train,” Mishra said.

For the past three nights, the state-run company had built up the tempo for the bridge’s inauguration with spectacular multi-colour laser shows and fire works that was visible from long distances from the northern, western and southern parts of the city.

The evenings presented a breath-taking view when the bridge was lit up. And at dusk when the lights went on, a viewer from the existing Mahim Causeway of the colonial era was able to see a huge pyramid-like structure above the dark waters of the Arabian Sea.

The two cable bridges, one 500 metres long on the northern side and another 350 metres long on the southern side, allow the passage of fishing boats. The bridge rests on two towers, each 126 metres tall or as high as a 43-storey building, that appear hazily in the monsoon mist.

People were seen craning their necks to get a glimpse of the towering bridge even when the suburban trains sped past the Mahim Creek Bridge between Mahim and Bandra.

The bridge – which was conceived in 1963 but contracted to the private sector Hindustan Construction Corp only in 2000 – encompasses some of the most modern security systems, including electronic eyes on the top and underneath, the authorities said.

They said the project involved some 3,000 professionals from 11 countries, including China, Egypt, Singapore, Thailand, and even Serbia and Switzerland. The bridge, that used 40,000 tonnes of steel and 90,000 tonnes of concrete, weighs 270,000 tonnes.