Plan for 5-Km Dwarka-Delhi Airport Underground Tunnel Revived

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In a move to create a much-needed western road link to the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) is reviving an ambitious project to construct a 5-kilometer tunnel between Dwarka’s Sector 24 and the airport.

The Rs 5,000-crore project, which was practically shelved last year, was revived after the highways authority agreed to evaluate the feasibility of a new option recently suggested by the airport operator, Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL), NHAI officials familiar with the project said.

The proposed tunnel will provide smooth access to the airport to traffic coming from north, west and southwest Delhi and decongest National Highway-8, which caters to airport-bound traffic from various parts of the city. “Airport-bound traffic from north, west, southwest and northwest Delhi can bypass traffic on the Ring Road and NH-8 if a western road entry is created,” said one NHAI official.

“Currently, it takes nearly 40 minutes to reach the airport, especially during peak hours. It will take about 10 minutes to reach the airport from Dwarka once the tunnel is constructed,” the official added.

Under NHAI’s original plan, the proposed tunnel was to start in Dwarka’s Sector 24 and run parallel to the existing underground Airport Express Metro Line (between Dwarka’s Sector 21 and IGI station) and open on the main airport road (IGI T3 Road). But the project hit a roadblock after DIAL objected to the tunnel merging on to the main airport road, saying it would lead to “undesirable” congestion around the airport.

The proposal was renewed as both NHAI and DIAL agreed on the importance of connecting Dwarka to the airport, the official added. According to a DIAL spokesperson, an alternative option wherein the tunnel from the western side ends at the airport’s Terminal 2 was suggested to the NHAI a few weeks ago.

“Recently, they suggested an alternative option at a site near T2 for the project. We are getting the option evaluated by our consultant,” said the NHAI official, requesting anonymity.

“They had suggested that the tunnel terminate underground where pick-up and drop-off facility could be developed. But their option was not acceptable to us due to safety concerns,” the official said.

According to DIAL, the proposed opening on the airport road would have led to “undesirable” congestion around the airport. “The initial alignment [as proposed by NHAI] was to meet the Central Spine Road of the airport, which would create a thoroughfare for the non-airport-based traffic, thus leading to undesirable congestion,” said a DIAL spokesperson.

Currently, NH-8, which is already burdened by Delhi-Gurugram traffic, bears an entire load of airport-bound traffic coming from various parts of the city. Commuters coming from Delhi’s north, northwest and western areas commute on the Ring Road and then the NH-8 on their way to the airport.

“The western access, in the form of a deep tunnel, would be a much-needed connectivity measure from Dwarka and other western and northern parts of Delhi to the airport,” the DIAL spokesperson said.

The western entry to the airport, NHAI officials say, will not only take the traffic load off the NH-8 but is of strategic importance to open an alternative route to the airport. With NHAI likely to start the work on 40km-long access-controlled Urban Extension Road-II, NHAI officials say, western connectivity to the airport would benefit a large number of people. UER-II will connect NH-1 near Narela in northwest Delhi and NH-10 (towards Rohtak) to NH-8.

Transport planning experts admit that a western entry will help solve the congestion problem in the city to a large extent. “A western entry is very important, as it will provide alternate access to traffic coming from north, northwest and west Delhi and take the load off the existing road network. It will provide a huge relief to residents of Dwarka sub-city,” Sewa Ram, professor of transport planning at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), said.

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