A solution to traffic woes | Daily News

A solution to traffic woes

Rajagiriya, the main city of the Sri Jayawardhanapura administrative capital, is well known for its traffic congestion at virtually any time of the day. With arterial roads radiating from Rajagiriya to Nawala, Borella, Battaramulla, Pita Kotte and Gothatuwa, it is a traffic nightmare for motorists as well as Police. Many temporary traffic control solutions have not offered a way out of the gridlock, which costs time, energy and money for motorists, bus passengers and pedestrians.

Although the previous Government vowed to build a flyover at Rajagiriya to ease traffic congestion under the infamous election-oriented “200 bridges and flyovers programme”, only a few were actually built around eight years ago, including those at Nugegoda and Dehiwela. The proposed flyovers for Rajagiriya and Havelock Town fell by the wayside. Rajagiriya is now getting a much better deal – a four-lane, concrete flyover costing Rs.4.7 billion designed to drastically reduce traffic congestion and cut travel times at least by half.

Built with Spanish aid and expertise and fully overseen by the Road Development Authority (RDA), the 534 metre long flyover consists of two parallel bridges with two lanes on each bridge. It was to be constructed in two phases from Battaramulla to Borella along the new Parliament Road and only the first phase of the flyover was to be completed by December 2017. However, the Government requested the contractors to complete work on the second phase simultaneously to minimize the inconvenience caused to the public during construction, which means the entire flyover is now almost complete. It was inspected on Thursday by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and will be opened in January 2018 by President Maithripala Sirisena. Most motorists would have wished for an extension all the way to the Airport Expressway at Peliyagoda, but this is a good start that can point the way to bigger things.

The Rajagiriya flyover is not the only such project currently underway. Two more flyovers are being constructed in Ganemulla and Polgahawela, also with Spanish assistance, to reduce the congestion mainly caused by the railway crossings. The Government is also going ahead with the Central Expressway from Colombo to Kandy, which is due to be extended to Dambulla. Work is already underway. A new 74 Km expressway called Ruwanpura Expressway is to be built from the Kahathuduwa Interchange of the Southern Expressway to Pelmadulla, to provide faster (just 45 minutes) access to Ratnapura.

The Southern Expressway itself is being extended to Hambantota in line with the Government’s plans to make the region a shipping and aviation hub using the Magampura Port and the Mattala Airport. The Outer Circular Highway too is being extended. An integrated transport hub is coming up in Kottawa, just a few metres away from the Southern Expressway entry point. An overhead bridge will be built from Kelaniya to Colombo Fort which will be extended up to the HSBC building in Rajagiriya. The Government is also mulling a road from Kandy to Hambantota that will traverse the country’s interior.

Apart from expressways and road works, the Government is going ahead with other major infrastructure projects such as the Colombo International Financial City. All these projects also negate the allegations spread by the Joint Opposition and certain other politicians that the National Unity Government had neglected infrastructure and other forms of development such as power projects.

During his inspection tour, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe explained how traffic congestion hampers the country’s economic development, adding that short term, midterm and long term initiatives have been formulated to solve traffic issues. Traffic in Colombo is already down to around 8 km/h and experts predict a figure of just 3 Km/h by end 2019, based on present rates of vehicle registration.

While building and widening roads is essential to control the worsening traffic, it is even more prudent to build better public transport links that could take some cars off the road at least on weekdays. Indeed, the Western Province Megapolis Plan calls for such Light Rail Transit (LRT) projects on highly congested traffic corridors such as Malabe-Colombo, the groundwork for which will be laid next year. This will be an appealing alternative to the private car – just imagine the fuel and time savings if even 200 cars are taken off the road during the rush hour on this busy sector. Furthermore, the rise of ride sharing services will also reduce the need for having a private car.

There should also be a bigger focus on the development of roads in rural areas. There is nothing wrong about developing city roads, but almost every TV news bulletin has a story about a remote village which lacks even a basic tarred access road. These lacunae in development must be identified and corrective action taken so that the fruits of development can be shared equally among all Sri Lankans. The forthcoming Local Government election will give the voters an opportunity to elect candidates who are committed to fulfill the basic grassroots needs of their villages such as motorable roads and bus services. After all, the road to development should start from the local bodies. 


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