Khed-Shivapur toll plaza is located on Pune-Satara National Highway 48. File
A DAY after District Collector Naval Kishore Ram recommended the closure of the Khed-Shivapur toll plaza on Pune-Satara National Highway (NH) 48, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) said all road works will be completed by March.
“The contractor, Reliance Infrastructure, has assured us that all road work will be completed by March,” said Suhas Chitnis, project director of NHAI. Chitnis said in the last one month or so, the road work had picked up pace and complaints from commuters had also gone down.
“During the prolonged monsoon, road work could not be expedited. However, now the road works have sped up, diversions have been repaired and traffic movement is being smoothened out,” he said. Ram said his priority was to ensure the safety of commuters on Pune-Satara highway and he had, therefore, recommended that the Khed-Shivapur toll plaza be closed.
“I have recommended to the NHAI that the toll plaza should be closed. They have to take a decision in this regard,” Ram told The Indian Express.
Officials of the NHAI, however, said Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, who was in Pune, had specifically ruled out the closure of any toll plaza. “The financial model is such that the commuters have to bear the cost of construction and maintenance. The minister has clarified that no toll plaza will be closed. Also, the NHAI has no right to close any toll plaza,” officials said.
The collector said people in the area had demanded good roads but the contractor had failed to ensure the same, putting commuters at risk. “Our priority is to enforce the safety of people. For that, we want the work to be done on time. However, this has not been happening,” he said.
Ram said the demand of the people to close the toll plaza was genuine and the district collectorate had agreed to do so. “I am with the people and have, therefore, suggested its closure,” he added. Baramati MP Supriya Sule and MLA Sangram Thopte have led the protests to close the toll plaza, which has become a major obstacle for commuters, who are delayed due to traffic congestion.
The collector said the officials of the contractor — Reliance Infrastructure — have been attending the meetings conducted by him. “We had told them repeatedly to get the roads in order. And then we carried out an investigation into the state of roads under the jurisdiction of the contractor and found that the commuters’ safety was compromised,” he said.