The first phase of the Mumbai-Nagpur expressway between Nagpur and Shirdi will be opened for vehicular traffic from August 15, chief minister Eknath Shinde announced on Saturday.
The greenfield expressway, called Samruddhi Mahamarg, is the pet project of Shinde and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
“We are giving a push to the work of Samruddhi Mahamarg named after Hindu Hriday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray. Nagpur to Shirdi stretch will be opened on August 15,” Shinde said at a party gathering organized by MLA Mangesh Kudalkar in Mumbai.
Shinde has been associated with the project right from the beginning when he held the public works (public undertakings) department in successive BJP and MVA governments thus heading the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) which is building the project.
The project also assumes political significance. Earlier this month, Shinde had in the assembly spoken about heading a department which did not have any funds and how Fadnavis entrusted him with the ambitious project, which also brought the two politicians closer.
The 701-km-long Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway project has missed several deadlines. It was expected to be completed by the end of 2020. Last December, Shinde, who was PWD (undertakings) minister in the erstwhile MVA government, declared that it will open in two months. In April, then-chief minister Uddhav Thackeray announced to make Nagpur and Washim stretch operational from May 2.
The ₹55,000 crore six-lane ambitious project is aimed at reducing the travel time between Mumbai and Nagpur by half – eight-nine hours from 16-18 hours at present.
According to MSRDC officials, the entire stretch between Mumbai and Nagpur will have 26 toll booths and MSRDC has proposed a toll of ₹1,212 as one-way for light motor vehicles like cars and jeeps.
The chief minister in his address said that they are also pushing for early completion of the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) also known as the Sewri Nhava Sheva Trans Harbour Link. “Once completed the travel will be reduced to 25 minutes from three hours for reaching Raigad from Mumbai,” Shinde said.
The 22-km long MTHL will connect Sewri with Nhava Sheva and is expected to be ready by 2023 as more than 50% of work is completed. MTHL is a cable-stay bridge and will be the second-longest sea link in the world after the 42-km link between Qingdao and Huandao in China.
On Saturday, the state cabinet allowed the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to raise ₹60,000 crore debt to fund projects like MTHL, the metro railway and the coastal road.