Mangaluru, Dec 11, 2017: The National Highway 66 (Edapally-Panvel) between Talapady (Karnataka-Kerala border) and Majali (Karnataka-Goa border), four-laning work, in stark contrast to the tall claims made by Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari of building an average 30 km highway every day across the country, is far from being met.
In spite of BJP MPs — Nalin Kumar Kateel (Dakshina Kannada), Shobha Karandlaje (Udupi-Chikkamagaluru), and Anantkumar Hegde (Uttara Kannada) — representing coastal Karnataka, the project has not been speeded up.
Four-laning of this important link between North and South India has three parts. The first part of 17 km between Nanthoor and Surathkal was developed under the Port Connectivity Project between 2005 and 2013. The second part of developing Talapady-Nanthoor and Surathkal-Kundapur (90 km), started in 2010, is yet to get completed, while the third part of widening 187.24 km from Kundapur to Majali near Karwar whose work started in 2014 has shown practically no progress.
Two flyovers : The Talapady-Kundapur stretch is almost complete but for two crucial flyovers in Mangaluru and a 2-km road in Padubidri town in Udupi district. Nevertheless, concessionaire Navayuga Udupi Tollway is allowed to collect toll.
NHAI authorities claim the concessionaire is facing fund crunch, thereby delaying flyover construction, while tussle among residents about the alignment — whether within the town or through bypass — has delayed the Padubidri stretch.
Quality issues : While the Kundapur-Goa border stretch ((187.24 km) too has missed the August 2016 deadline compelling NHAI to extend deadline to February 2019, residents allege substandard work by concessionaire IRB West Coast Tollway, a subsidiary of IRB Infra. Devidas Shanbhag, a businessman from Maravanthe, alleged that no foundation was formed while improving the existing carriageway; only the top bitumen was scrapped to lay fresh coat of bitumen.
Ganesh Bhat, a resident of Bhatkal, said soil was indiscriminately dumped to fill gorges and road was being built without stabilising it.
The stretch had witnessed frequent landslides because of unscientific straight-cutting of hillocks instead of slope-cutting, including at Kumta and Byndoor. Landslip at Kumta had killed three children at Tandraguli this June.
Port Roads Woes : While New Mangalore Port has been the gateway to Karnataka, NH 66 connecting the port to other parts of the State is fraught with craters and potholes. Thousands of trucks originate and terminate from and at the port, joining the traffic on NH 66. The authority promptly collects toll at NITK Surathkal toll plaza. NHAI has proposed complete revamp of the stretch under Sagar Mala project while also promising to repair the road in a month.