Toll extended to fund projects in Maharashtra

The Maharashtra government has decided to extend toll collection at three posts in and around Mumbai by up to 29 years to fund new infrastructure projects. Increasing the burden on citizens, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link toll will now continue till 2068 to fund the Bandra-Versova sea link, the Vashi toll will run till 2038 to recover funds spent on widening the bridge over the creek, and the Pune Expressway toll will have to be paid till 2045 for a tunnel through the Lonavla-Khandala ghats. The state government's cabinet sub-committee on infrastructure, which is led by chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, recently allowed MSRDC to recover the additional toll. It also approved a six-lane expansion of the 30-km Mumbra bypass (Shilphata) to Kalyan up to the Nashik highway. For this, citizens will have to pay a toll -which was scrapped in 2016 following the decision to wind up around 60 toll posts across the state -till beyond 2040. The toll will start once 70% of the project is complete.

The cost of the 16-km tunnel expressway bypass is pegged at around Rs.4,800 crore, the 12-lane Vashi creek bridge expansion at about Rs.777 crore and the Bandra-Versova sea link at Rs.7,502 crore. The Bandra-Versova sea link project has received all the required approvals, including the crucial CRZ and environmental clearances. In the second bidding for the bridge, five firms, including China Harbor Engineering, Reliance Infra, HCC, Hyundai and L&T, with their respective partners have qualified in the technical round. The final bidding is expected in a month or two.

The initial toll period of the BWSL was till 2020, but already an extension has been granted till 2039 to recover the cost of the city's first sea link. If the initial date is taken into account, toll is being extended by a mind boggling 48 years.

On the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the collection of toll is already extended till 2030 to recover the cost of about Rs.2,500 crore. The existing collection contract with IRB ends in 2019. Thereafter, MSRDC may appoint another contractor or collect toll itself till the extended period of 2045.

Going by the toll, the per km cost of toll on the expressway stands at around Rs.2.40 now. Going by this rate, the toll on the proposed Mumbai-Nagpur super-expressway could be at least Rs.1,200-1,800 one way. Ahead of the CM's pet project, the state allowed expansion of the Shilphata-Kalyan road to improve connectivity to the Nagpur expressway .

The debt-ridden Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation, the infrastructure arm of the state government, has got a shot in the arm. Around 5.3 acres abutting the BWSL on which MSRDC's office is located is now officially owned by the company. Earlier, it was leased to MSRDC by the PWD.

Since the valuation of the land is worth around Rs.34,000 crore, the number of companies approaching MSRDC for various projects has gone up. That's because MSRDC, which is facing losses of over Rs.4,000 crore, can now show this land as its asset.

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