Certain structures define a city. Think the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco comes to mind, Brooklyn Bridge and New York is the answer. The Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link or Bandra-Worli Sea Link as its popularly known is one such structure that has come to signify Mumbai in a short period of time.
Mumbai is known as the city of dreams. A city that never sleeps, Mumbai welcomes citizens from all over India with open arms. They come here to work, to act, to start a business, to find love or to just have a better life. The jumble of various cultures is what has made Mumbai a true metropolis. Once you belong here, you can’t belong anywhere else. And that is what keeps the millions of people coming here every single day, wanting more and seeking more.
While that is happening, the city is a finite concept. There is only so much space and infrastructure available to accommodate the burgeoning population. The entire city started becoming a bottleneck due to terrible traffic and public transport being full to its brim. A regular journey of half an hour started taking longer. Air and noise pollution levels were off the charts. As a city that pays one of the highest taxes in the country, residents started demanding better roads, better infrastructure and an easier commute. The local Government could no longer live in denial and pretend everything was okay.
The biggest cause of concern was the route from Western suburbs to central Mumbai. Poor planning and random residential districts ensured that the small area of Mahim was the only way people from Western suburbs such as Andheri, Santacruz, Malad, Jogeshwari and so on could access central Mumbai. Peak hours became a menace to navigate through and office goers spend inhuman hours just trying to get to work. To ease congestion and to allow for a better solution, the Government came up with the Western Freeway Project. A bridge over Mahim Bay, that would connect suburbs directly to Worli seaface. The project was delegated by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation Limited (MSRDC) and launched in 1999.
The project known as Bandra-Worli Sea Link started earnest construction in 2000.The fact that the bridge had to span a water body made the designing complex and challenging. It was designed as the first cable stayed bridge to be constructed in open seas in India. Engineers had to come up with blueprints that would take into account the marine life and soil below the bridge which could affect its structure and design. The Bandra-Worli Sea Link is the first project to plan ahead and stay smart. A lot of structures in India don’t plan for natural calamities, leaving them vulnerable in the case of a disaster. The Bandra-Worli Sea Link used seismic arresters to gauge its strength. It can withstand earthquakes up to 7.0 on the Richter Scale.
The project was finished in 2009 and opened to the public. Sadly, the project had been almost 5 years behind schedule and went over budget.
Constructed to ease the vehicular traffic, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link doesn’t allow pedestrians, two wheeled motorcycles and three wheeled rickshaws. Bandra-Worli Sea Link is set up a top surveillance and security system. The toll collection booths have CCTV cameras, advanced traffic management systems, mobile explosive scanners and emergency phones. The construction team was aware of Mumbai monsoons and its weather so the bridge tower of Bandra-Worli Sea Link has lightning protection. While the Bandra-Worli Sea Link is a thing of architectural beauty, in a city like Mumbai it can also be a thing of purely show.
The high toll costs (highest in India) ensures not all vehicle owners want to use the bridge for their commute. Because of the toll, the daily traffic is much less than anticipated. It is on the local Government to figure a way to increase traffic and bring down the toll costs so more people can access the beautiful sea link.