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|Addressing increasing traffic congestion|
|Tuesday, 17 July 2012 21:24|
In most countries-both developed and developing ones- increasing traffic
congestion is becoming a huge headache, causing traffic administrators and managers to be frantically looking for solutions. Even in the rich countries where financial, technological and human resources are adequate, finding solutions to this problem is an extremely difficult task. Therefore, one could well imagine the plight of the road authorities in developing countries with their scarce financial, technological and human resources.
Traffic congestion does not have only short-term effects, but also serious long-term, socio-economic consequences because congested roads waste commuters' time, cost them money, degrade the environment and cause severe stress on all road users. This obviously leads to a greater chance of accidents occurring, thereby endangering lives, limbs and properties.
In Guyana, the traffic congestion headache is here upon us and like other countries it is really testing us. But the origin of the congestion, chaos and confusion is not a recent one. It began over four decades ago with the scrapping of the railway in 1970 which was perhaps the single most disastrous mistake made by the PNC government. The PPP, then in opposition, literally begged the government not to scrap the railway, but the then Prime Minister L.F.S Burnham was adamant that it had to go. It was later that Deputy Prime Minister Dr. P.A Reid admitted in the National Assembly that it was a mistake to scrap the railway. But the damage was already done and that became mere history. However, it triggered the era of traffic congestion, as there was no visionary policy as regards expanding the road networks to cater for the inevitable increase in road traffic in the absence of the railway.
Initially, the traffic congestion was not very pronounced because the national economy was on the decline and the standard of living of our people was not improving, therefore there was a slow rate of acquisition of personal vehicles. In fact, during this era all the vehicle-importing companies closed down because of the unavailability of foreign exchange.
However, with the historic restoration of democracy in October 1992, the process of rebuilding our economy and improving the standard of living of our people began and today we have hundreds of additional vehicles coming on to our roads every month; but the existing road networks cannot cope with the situation.
One particular situation needs urgent focus with a view to provide a lasting solution because clearly, if action is not taken to address it in another couple of years it will become totally chaotic. And that is the traffic across the Demerara Harbour Bridge which has become extremely voluminous, particularly at peak hours. Currently, the very innovative system of operating a double lane at peak hours with traffic being closed one side of the bridge is working fairly well, but clearly this is rapidly outgrowing its usefulness and not long from now will become logistically impractical.
Therefore we have to begin to look for long-term solutions now. We cannot wait any longer because we may be caught with our pants down.
A feasible solution to this problem is to build another bridge parallel to the existing one. In such a scenario, traffic going east and west could be accommodated simultaneously ending the need to close traffic at one end. At the same time, this will bring an end to massive traffic congestion during peak hours which certainly is adversely affecting production and productivity and increases the probability of accidents.
Overall, we also have to take a hard look at our road network and the rate of acquisition of vehicles with a view to formulate a long-term policy to expand and increase with the aim of making it adequate not for only now, but for many years to come.
On this note, it has been a practice over the years to construct narrow roads only to see a few years after that there is an upsurge in traffic prompting the need for widening them. The sensible and logical approach should be to build wide roads in the first place, because when roads have to be widened they cost more and the logistical problems greater.
There is also the common practice of constructing heavy-duty bridges with wood, only to find that they have to be frequently repaired; whereas if they were built with concrete, this and the accompanying inconvenience would have been avoided, apart from the waste of money.
Many of these bridges are also built without walkways for pedestrians, therefore exposing them to the risk of being struck down by vehicles.
So there is need for a comprehensive review of our entire road network and the formulation and implementation of long-term policies and programmes to address the future challenges that increased road traffic will inevitably create.
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 July 2012 21:26|
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