The new footbridge in front of Alipore zoo is to be opened by mid-January, promising a safer crossing for pedestrians and a snarl-free road for traffic but missing the busiest days of winter.
Christmas, December 31 and New Year’s Day traditionally bring the largest crowds to the zoo, triggering traffic mayhem in that part of the city. During the winter rush, hundreds of pedestrians can be seen jostling for space on the edge of the road at any time of day.
According to a former officer of the Bhowanipore traffic guard, the chaos is partly because there is little space for pedestrians to stand while waiting to cross over. The Rs 4-crore solution to this problem is being executed by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and advertising company Karukrit as a public-private partnership.
“There is work left to be done on the floor. We are also tuning the escalators, after which the trial run will be done. The footbridge will be thrown open within a month,” a CMC engineer said.
Although the target date is beyond the period that brings the highest footfall, the municipal authorities believe that people will still be able to benefit from it this winter. January 23 is a Sunday, followed by a public holiday on January 26 because of Republic Day. Both these days could have big crowds visiting the zoo, a civic engineer said.
A zoo official said the crowd count on Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day was between 80,000 and 1 lakh. “The next highest turnouts are on Sundays during the winter months. The average footfall is about 40,000.”
Construction of the footbridge had started in April. Karukrit is making the entire investment and will also be responsible for its operation and maintenance for 30 years, the CMC engineer said.
The firm will recover the money it has spent on the footbridge through high-visibility advertisements displayed on the structure.
Kesto Saha, a director of Karukrit, said the railway consultancy agency RITES has checked the quality of materials used while the Bridge and Roof Company has supervised the construction.
Standing 6.5 metres above the road, the footbridge is 33 metres long. Both ends have escalators to climb the bridge. The only way down is through a flight of stairs.