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Hilltop road hits a hurdle

Santosh Patnaik

Transport experts raise objections; safety comes into question


  • Original plan was to develop it on the lines of Tirupati-Tirumala ghat road
  • The road was estimated to cost over Rs. 2 crores
  • VUDA, which was to have extended technical support already spent 25 p.c.
  • Road is too narrow for four-wheelers



    LONG WAY TO GO: The hilltop road being laid between Visakhapatnam and Simhalachalam. — Photo: K. R. Deepak

    VISAKHAPATNAM: The much-touted hilltop road between Visakhapatnam and Simhachalam has hit a roadblock with its safety and the rationale behind its necessity being questioned.

    Brainchild of the then Vice-Chairman of Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (VUDA), D. Sreenivasulu, the original plan was to develop it on the lines of the Tirupati-Tirumala ghat road at a cost of Rs. 2.13 crores.

    As part of an agreement, VUDA, which agreed to execute the project and extend technical support to the Simhachalam Devasthanam that owns it, has already spent 25 per cent of the total cost. The remaining cost of the two-phase project would have been shared on a 50:25 ratio respectively by the devasthanam and funds released from former MP M.V.V.S. Murti's MPLAD scheme.

    Enquiries revealed that the project did not receive any contribution from the MPLAD and the devasthanam authorities have also realised that the road will not serve any purpose due to certain objections raised by transport experts.

    Lorry mishap

    The Indian Road Congress (IRC) and Messrs. Road Traffic Management -- a consultant on transport -- have raised strong objections regarding the project. What forced many to develop cold feet in sorting out the obstacles was the hurtling down of a lorry carrying construction workers from the hill near Hanumantawaka junction two years ago killing of the workers.

    Objections were also raised after the accident on the contention that it was against Agamasastra. Though a VUDA official claimed that they prepared an action plan recently to revive the project in consultation with the devasthanam authorities, sources said there was no indication to suggest that it would be completed in the near future.

    "The hilltop road has been conceived with a view to improving the tourism potential of Simhachalam, reducing distance between the city and pilgrim centre and enabling tourists to have a scenic view of the city while going on the ghat road," the VUDA official said. But experts from IRC and the consultant firm pointed out that due to the narrow road, only two-wheelers should be allowed on it -- that too only from one side. Some experts also pointed out that it was prone to accidents as there were many curves.

    They also observed that without railings, street lighting and patrolling, there was no point in going ahead with the project. Even the police had to undertake patrolling on two-wheelers. Owing to its location in a reserve forest, there was also the threat of attacks from panthers, wild boars and pythons, which were spotted several times on the Simhachalam hill range.

    Sources said that as per the revised estimates, the road needed Rs. 2 crores for completion based on the recommendations of the experts. "When no one is willing to give such a big amount, where is the need to complete it? That too, there is also no demand for another road when people are happy going to the holy place from Gopalapatnam and Mudasarlova sides,'' an Endowment Department official said.

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