Since the beginning of the construction work in 2013, the flyover site covering Moghbazar, Malibagh and Mouchak areas has been a constant source of limitless sufferings for commuters. The builders failed to draw any effective plan to ease the sufferings of the commuters and local residents from the problems usually associated with any construction of such magnitude.
The flyover is set to cross over eight intersections in Satrasta, FDC, Moghbazar, Mouchak, Shantinagar, Malibagh, Chowdhurypara, Ramna, and two rail-crossings. There will be eight loops to get on and off the flyover.
Originally approved in 2011, the flyover project received several deadline extensions and was finally scheduled to be completed by December 2015. But the latest extension will now give builders 18 more months to finish their job. The cost has gone up by nearly 58 per cent or Tk 4.46 billion as the government approved extra fund and extended the project deadline to June 2017.
The flyover project has been facing multi-faceted problems, which led to changing of the design 122 times so far since its beginning. Frequent changes in design were done as there was no similarity between the design and the existing underground utility services infrastructure. It resulted in halting the work.
Construction dust emanating from the site is causing health hazards all over the area. The roads have been narrowed down and these remain in pitiable condition making vehicular movement through the stretch extremely risky.
Transport analysts suggest that the builders should have followed the measures that India, Malaysia and Hong Kong take to ease people's sufferings during such construction.
What is more worrying is that the flyover in question has two major flaws. Firstly, the upward ramps are shorter than the downward ones instead of being the other way round. And on the second, the design has been made for left-hand drive traffic. All vehicles in Bangladesh are driven right-hand and the roads are also designed that way.
As per the plan, the upward ramps of the flyover stand on eight pillars while the downward ramps on 11. Shorter upward ramps pose a problem because vehicles need longer and less steep slopes to climb compared to what they need when they come down. Shorter upward ramps mean that many heavy vehicles such as big commercial buses and trucks might not be able to use the flyover at all.
The left-hand driving design made by a US consultant indicates that the flyover has all the wrong turns. The only right turn on the flyover - if someone comes from Moghbazar direction - is at Shantinagar. The remaining turns are all on the left.
Design faults were identified by a team of experts. The team suggested redesigning of the flyover. But, the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), the implementing authority of the project, refused to accept the suggestions because most of the construction work had already been completed.
Despite having seven flyovers and overpasses, and many more under construction, Dhaka might find difficulties to ease its nagging traffic congestions. Analysts say there is every possibility that such mega structures will turn into a big burden for the city in the years ahead.
Many countries are now dismantling their flyovers. Yet such big structures are being constructed in Bangladesh in an unplanned way narrowing the main roads. Experts say flyovers could never reduce tailbacks anywhere in the world as those only aggravated the situation within years of building amid increase in volume of private and small vehicles.
All over the world, there is a growing consensus against flyovers. Flyovers are not only an eyesore but also the symbol of failure to curb traffic congestions. In Seoul, Bangkok and Tokyo, many flyovers have already been dismantled, according to reports.
Experts say traffic gridlocks can be reduced by ensuring better use of the existing roads, rail and waterways with well-thought-out plans. Also tailbacks could have been reduced significantly without building flyovers if only a dedicated lane for public bus is set up in the spaces of the city roads.
However, according to many, flyover has been wrongly perceived as an emblem of development by the government to project its activities before the people. What is needed is developing a strong traffic demand management policy.
Experts opine the more the number of vehicles will increase the more it will aggravate traffic problem. Flyovers are, in fact, largely helping private cars and small vehicles avoid gridlocks for a limited mileage. People who travel a short distance in public transports don't use the flyovers. Besides, the entry and exit points of the flyovers are not easily accessible for traffic, resulting in gridlocks at those points.
Flyovers may ease gridlocks for the time-being, but these big infrastructure projects will eventually become burden for the city with the increase in the number of private vehicles. The authorities should, therefore, first identify the main reasons for traffic jams and then address those in an effective manner.
The government needs to take some drastic actions to resolve traffic congestions instead of building flyovers. The long-term solution is to decentralise the administration so that people do not need to come to Dhaka from all over the country.
However, in the short term, the government has to take radical measures to effectively control use of cars and land in Dhaka city. It should introduce Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and promote non-motorised transports to get rid of nagging traffic gridlocks.