The Bharatiya Janata Party used to routinely claim Thackeray, as chief minister between 2019 and June 2022, was working from home and not attending office or undertaking hinterland tours despite the state reeling under the coronavirus pandemic.
Asserting that many of the hurdles in the project were deliberately created despite it being key to the prosperity of farmers, Shinde said, “I don’t work from home. I came on the field as MSRDC minister under Devendra Fadnavis (between 2014 and 2019) and convinced people about the project. Land acquisition was done in record time.”
In an apparent reference to Thackeray’s claim that BJP reneged on the promise to share the chief ministerial tenure after the 2019 Assembly polls, Shinde said “what is spoken behind closed doors is never known so there is room to say anything”.
“If there is will power, projects can be completed in record time and the Samruddhi Expressway is an example,” Shinde said at the inauguration event in Shirdi.
With the inauguration of the 80-kilometre stretch from Shirdi to Bharvir in Nashik district, 600 kilometres of the 701-km route between Mumbai and Nagpur is now open for public use.
The 520-kilometre long first phase of Samruddhi Mahamarg from Nagpur to Shirdi was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 11, 2022. Deputy Chief Minister Fadnavis, speaking on the occasion, said connectivity to Mumbai and its port area was essential for the development of the state’s backward regions.
“When I conceptualised this greenfield expressway as chief minister, many felt it was just a dream. But I and Shinde, as Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation minister, ensured the dream turned into reality,” Fadnavis said.
He said Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar had opposed the Samruddhi Expressway.
The project will lead to development of 15 districts, he said, adding the remainder of the route will be completed in seven months, which will redefine Maharashtra.
Speaking on accidents on the stretch, Fadnavis said these would be curbed once an intelligent traffic management system is in place as motorists would be informed in advance about vehicle speeds.
The state highway police recently said 39 persons have died and 143 injured in 358 accidents on the Samruddhi Corridor between December 12 last year and April 30, 2023.
“The MTHL (22-kilometre sea bridge between Sewri and Uran connecting Mumbai and Raigad), the Samruddhi Expressway and the coastal road (on the western flank of Mumbai) are engineering marvels,” Fadnavis added.
The 80-km Shirdi-Bharvir stretch under phase 2 will increase connectivity from Vidarbha to different parts of Nashik, Ahmednagar and Pune through an interchange in Gonde in Sinnar, and also ease the commute to Shirdi, a renowned religious tourism destination, from Mumbai, Thane and Nashik, officials said.
The Shirdi-Bharvir stretch will bring medical facilities within reach of residents of Shirdi and areas close to it, officials said, adding the SMBT Hospital was just 500 metres away from the Bharvir interchange and can be accessed from the temple town in less than an hour.
The phase 2 stretch of the Samruddhi Expressway will also benefit farmers of Shirdi, Ahmednagar and Sinnar to get farm produce to Mumbai quickly due to reduction in cargo transport time.
This stretch of Hindu Hrudaysamrat Balasaheb Thackeray Maharashtra Samruddhi Mahamarg comprises seven major bridges, 18 minor bridges, 30 underpasses, 23 light vehicular underpasses, three interchanges at three plazas, 56 toll booths, six weigh bridges, they said.
They said 11.141 km of phase two passes through seven villages in Kopargaon (Ahmednagar district), 60.969 km in Sinnar and 7.067 km in Igatpuri, both in Nashik district. Phase 2 has come up at a cost of Rs 3,200 crore.