With the opening of the much-awaited Padma Bridge, the traffic congestion in the capital Dhaka is likely to become severer due to a lack of planning and initiatives, government officials and experts said.
The Padma Bridge is aimed at improving communication between Dhaka and 21 south-western districts, but urban transport system experts say traffic gridlock in and around Dhaka may create an obstacle to achieving the goal.
Ring roads around the capital should have been developed while constructing the bridge to cope with additional traffic movements in the capital, they said.
Diversion of traffic, they added, by ring roads surrounding the capital would have been the most effective solution to the new situation.
Bangladesh Bridge Authority has implemented the 6.15-kilometre road-cum-railway bridge between Mawa point in Munshiganj and Janjira point in Shariatpur to connect the capital with the south-western districts of the country.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the bridge on June 25 and it will be open to traffic at 6:00am the next day.
The vehicles from south-western districts will now use the Dhaka-Mawa-Bhanga expressway and enter Dhaka from Jatrabari using the Mayor Mohammed Hanif Flyover.
Roads and Highways Department Dhaka Zone additional chief engineer Md Sabuj Uddin Khan told New Age that huge congestion might be seen at Jatrabari point.
At the main exit point at Chankharpool there remained only two toll booths while there should be six more booths, he said, adding that traffic congestion has already become a regular scene there.
‘This situation will turn severer when the Padma Bridge will be inaugurated and the flyover can be packed till Postogola Bridge,’ he added.
Bangladesh University of Engineering Technology professor and a former Accident Research Institute director Md Shamsul Hoque told New Age that the Padma Bridge would have a direct impact on the Dhaka traffic situation.
In Dhaka, more people would now come from these districts, more private and goods-laden vehicles would come and even some vehicles would cross Dhaka to use Padma Bridge instead of using the Dhaka-Aricha corridor, he said.
‘This direct connectivity will multiply the traffic congestion in the capital,’ he said.
Dhaka has already been grappling with heavy traffic congestion while new traffic from the bridge will cause congestion at 10 gateways of the capital, including at Buriganga Bridge, Bosila and Hanif flyover, Shamsul said.
He emphasised the completion of ring roads surrounding the capital.
‘These roads should have been completed earlier. The construction of these roads is now difficult at present due to land acquisition,’ he said, adding, ‘not only for the bridge but also for bypassing vehicles from Dhaka these roads at peripheries are very necessary.’
The Revised Strategic Transport Plan for 2015 to 2035, which was approved in August 2016, envisaged separating intra-capital traffic flow from inter-district traffic by the construction of a 73km inner ring road, 108km middle ring road and 129km outer ring road passing through the capital’s flood flow zones.
The inner ring road would provide a new route to commuters around the capital, Teramukh-Abdullahpur-Gabtoli-Rayerbazar-Babu Bazar-Sadarghat-Fatullah-Chashara-Signboard-Shimrail-Demra-Eastern Bypass and on the way stretches of it would pass by the Balu River in the east and the Burignga River in the south.
The middle ring road has been planned to create a route along Outpura-Dhaka Bypass-Bhulta-Kanchpur-Jhilmil-Western Bypass.
Planned to run along the capital’s outer periphery the outer ring road would create a new traffic route linking Hemayetpur-Kalakandi-Madanpur-Danga-Bypail-Gazipur.
SM Salehuddin, the then executive director of Dhaka Transport Coordination Board, told New Age that when the authorities had started to construct the Padma Bridge they should have also started to prepare other infrastructures to facilitate the vehicular movement towards the capital.
‘Dhaka will face problems from two sides – increased traffic congestion and presence of huge people coming by crossing the bridge daily,’ he observed.
Salehuddin said that as the bridge would reduce the journey time from 21 districts to Dhaka significantly many people would try to enter Dhaka and return on the same day increasing the presence of people and vehicles in the capital.
Salehuddin, who is also one of the consultants of the Bus Route Rationalisation committee, suggested the construction of inner and outer ring roads immediately to bypass the pressure of vehicles from Dhaka.
Permission for vehicles to enter the capital, managing the number of goods-carrying trucks coming from other districts and ban on opening any new industry, offices and educational institutions in Dhaka and moving different facilities to other districts may help, he added.
Jahangirnagar University urban and regional planning professor Akter Mahmud said that when the bridge would be inaugurated the number of vehicles coming from south-western districts would increase for Dhaka and its adjacent districts.
Akter, also a former president of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners, said that the government should build inner and especially the middle ring roads immediately to bypass the vehicles.
He noted that once the four-lane up-gradation works on the Dhaka-Aricha highway were completed pressure on vehicles would increase further in the capital.
Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority executive director Neelima Akhter said that they had proposed constructing ring roads in the Revised Strategic Transport Plan though no research or feasibility studies were conducted to his end so far.
The Roads and Highways Department was working with the inner ring road but till now no funding source was confirmed, she said.
‘We are going to hold a meeting with all stakeholders on June 19 to discuss the transport system, traffic diversion and preparation after the Padma Bridge inauguration,’ Neelima said.
Roads and Highways Department Dhaka Zone additional chief engineer Md Sabuj Uddin Khan said that they had completed a feasibility study to construct the inner ring road in 2017.
Since then RHD started to look for funds from donor agencies but till now no donor agency agreed to finance the project, he said.
RHD additional secretary Md Yousub Ali Mollah said that a meeting of the road transport and bridges ministry on June 9 directed the department to repair the connecting roads around Dhaka to bypass the traffic.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police’s additional commissioner for traffic, Md Munibur Rahman, said that they had some plans to manage the traffic that would come via Padma Bridge.
They would divert the Chattogram-bound vehicles via Postogola Bridge and then to a connecting road towards Narayanganj via Pagla, he said.
During peak hours, he said, they would divert Motijheel/Ramna-bound vehicles by roads at Doyaganj under the Mayor Hanif Flyover.
The flyover would carry the vehicles towards different directions like Nimtoli, Gabtoli, Motijheel and Bishwa Road, he continued.
Goods-laden vehicles would run during off-peak hours through the city while they would also allow some inter-district buses to cross the city during these hours, he said.
The additional commissioner hoped that when an under-construction bridge on the river Sitalaykhya would be completed the pressure on Dhaka would reduce.
Munibur, however, added that they had no plan to increase manpower at Jatrabari point to manage additional traffic.