Dr Ousman Gajigo, a former micro-economic manager at the African Development Bank, has said the massive traffic jam currently being experienced on the roads is as result of a lack of a national road master plan and it is likely to negate a lot of the gains that are expected from the new construction.
Currently, commuters are suffering from heavy traffic jams in both directions for the newly constructed Bertil Harding Highway that can last for hours.
But in an opinion shared with The Standard, Dr Gajigo, an international civil servant, said many people mistakenly assume that the current jams are being caused by the ongoing construction but that is not the case. “These unusual traffic jams are the results of the absence of road design. The key sites of the major bottlenecks are Sukuta-Jabang junction and the Brusubi Turntable, where there are no restrictions on access that can be blamed on-going construction. Rather, the bottlenecks in these locations are the direct results from the bad design of the road. Therefore, those intolerable congestions will only get worse with time unless changes are implemented,” Dr Gajico said.
He further explained that a brief look at this major construction can clearly show the “debacle we are heading into and provides a cautionary tale about the immense cost of lack of planning. One does not have to be a transportation engineer to see the obvious flaws. Let’s consider intersections or turning points. The existing ones are badly-spaced, particularly between Senegambia and the Old Yundum. It is true that the turning points should be minimized in a multi-lane arterial road to minimize accidents but it makes no sense that there is only one crossing opportunity at Brusubi for vehicles traveling between the Sukuta-Jabang junction and the Senegambia area in Kololi. This means that all travelers heading to Bijilo, Brusubi, Kerr Serign, Brufut, Sukuta, and many other locations are forced into an unbearable bottleneck at Brusubi. To aggravate the congestion in this spot, the off-ram roads are unreasonably narrow even though there is ample space. Any sensible planning should have foreseen the nightmarish bottleneck,” Gajigo said.
He went on: “Another major shortcoming in design is the absence of an overpass at Sukuta-Jabang junction. This is a busy intersection with a known heavy traffic volume well before construction got underway. Yet, the authorities were apparently surprised that it has become a major bottleneck every single day starting from 5:00pm and extending for hours. This glaring oversight could have been avoided with the requisite planning. The time wasted and vehicle damage from overheating in that spot almost wipes away the expected gains that are associated with road construction”.
Gajigo said another major design flaw is the absence of any consideration for pedestrian welfare. “Throughout the whole length of the 6-lane road from the Airport Junction to Kairaba Avenue, there is not a single safe place where pedestrians are able to cross without dangerously dodging speeding vehicles. The elderly, children and the disabled will be particularly vulnerable. Already, several fatalities involving pedestrians getting run over by speeding vehicles have been recorded. These preventable fatalities are the direct consequences of incompetence and dereliction of duty,” he said.
According to him, the disaster of a lack of planning of this major road construction is a microcosm of a general lack of urban planning in roads in The Gambia. He said what should have preceded the construction of this OIC-funded road is not only its own planning but a general road master plan covering all of the Greater Banjul area at the very least. “As in any plan, the key part is to clearly identify the goal, which should be straightforward. A road master plan should aim to sustainably and safely meet the communication needs of not only present but future residents and businesses. With the goal clearly articulated, the sequencing of the necessary activities will almost suggest themselves if managed by competent individuals. To ensure that the target goal is met, critical indicators such as time saved, pedestrian deaths and vehicle accidents, among others, are tracked,” he said.
Gajigo concluded: “The first major activity in the design a roads masterplan is consultative process and an information data gathering phase. A key part of information pertains to traffic volume, patterns and projections. This process requires not only a strong local government in place but a good collaborative relationship with the central government. Unfortunately, the government of Adama Barrow is ill-suited for this task since it is not only dismissive or oblivious of the need for local government reforms but is hellbent on fighting local governments for purely political reason”.