Why traffic jams on highways?
Highways are the lifeline of an economy as these are usually built for speedy transportation of men and materials. A traveller is supposed to experience an uninterrupted movement of transports on the highways as there is no traffic signal nor are there any crossings. But unfortunately, this is not to be. Newspapers almost daily carry reports of long tailbacks on Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Tangail highways. Traffic jams on these long routes are simply a drag disrupting the national supply chain. These cause delay in the shipment of exports and inward movement of imports to and from the Chittagong Port which handles about 95 per cent of the cargoes.
This writer often faces jams on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway when he undertakes journey at least once a month and finds a virtual anarchy in the absence of either highway police or any other supervisory agency. Long hours of tailback even create make-shift markets run by hawkers in places where buses, cars, trucks and covered vans get stranded.
It is not understandable why there is no highway police in front of the toll counter just before Kachpur Bridge, Meghna Bridge and Daudkandi Bridge on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway. As a result, hundreds of vehicles clog the gateways to the bridges with even the toll counter personnel remaining mute witness to the utter disorder. Drivers of various vehicles make things worse by trying to go ahead of others with none to hold them in check there. None can see any police personnel patrolling anywhere on the highway in order to discipline the reckless drivers trying to overtake others, causing accidents that often lead to jams. Vehicles having mechanical trouble on the bridges also cause miles of jams. Now-a-days, inter-district buses plying Dhaka-Chittagong highway face severe traffic jam frequently at different points. Traffic jam continues till the Kanchpur Bridge at the beginning of a journey. It occurs again on Gouripur-Matlab road and then on Mainamati road of Comilla cantonment area.
The government is seemingly aware of the serious situation the highways face these days. Such awareness is reflected from its latest decision to build a complete elevated expressway over the existing Dhaka-Chittagong Highway shelving its previous plan to construct six-lane expressway. The decision was finalised at the directive of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina considering facilities, future benefits and judicious use of land due to the construction of the proposed elevated expressway. Officials say the elevated expressway will facilitate easier and smoother road communication on the country's most commercially important highway.
While the elevated expressway will be a panacea on Dhaka-Chittagong route, who'll take care of other highways? Many vehicles of south and south-western districts, which take the Paturia-Daulatdia route, drive down the Dhaka-Tangail highway and as a result, there are often long lines of vehicles clogging different parts of the road.
It is time for the government to enforce strict discipline on highways by beefing up highway police patrol. The Ministry of Road Transport has successfully put auto-rickshaws and other slow-moving vehicles like Nasimon and Karimon out of the highways in order to reduce accidents and allow speedy movement of buses, lorries, covered vans and cars. But without round-the-clock vigilance of police and other agencies, the highways will continue to experience intolerable traffic jams.