By Dr. Assan Jaye DVM, PhD, FAAS
The construction of the trunk route exiting Stink corner via traffic light to Burusubi was an early project of the Old Governments after the realization of the prospects of increasing modern residential and hotel development for Tourism in the “Coastal” part of the Greater Banjul. Hotels, Large shopping stores, and recreational facilities expanded alongside this trunk road and beyond, which came with such development the numerous individual modern residences and Housing estates. Thus, the residential sections of Kotu, Manjai, Kololi, SeneGambia, Bijilo, Tranquil and Burusubi became modern abode for high proportion of civil servants and Businessmen of the country (estimate has it that 65% of civil servants’ residences are in this part of the country). The attractive housing landscape interspersed with beautiful greenery palm trees and shrubs of tropical kinds made this part of residential and commercial places unique and prided by Gambians. In the last ten years one could observe the increasing traffic commuting along the ‘Highway’, which got accentuated by the development of joint trunk road to the Airport and Sukuta to the left and Kombo South to the right. A visionary urban plan would have predicted potential traffic congestion on the main trunk road from the Pipeline Traffic lights, as many of us who had moved to this area ten years ago had foreseen.
This prediction has no doubt became true recently; we are all living witness of a frustrating traffic jam from the Traffic Light end to the Burusubi Turntable especially at times of ‘Work or after-work rush hours”, a daily scene reminiscent of the ‘Old Autoroute’ entry to Dakar as experienced by those who were used to travelling into Dakar before the Wade regime. In our case, an increasing but frustrating man-hour loss of productive time in traffic jam along this route is worsening and without iota of doubt that it will very soon take individuals more than 3 hours to commute from work to their residential abode in what should take a time of 20-30 min. What has also shown deficit in the maintenance of standard environmental and aesthetic care along this route is the permission by the authority to the gradual encroachment of the ’40 meters’ of distance and space from residential or building premises to the trunk road that appear in the form of Bars, make-shift sheds for petty commerce, vendor parking space for imported second-hand vehicles and the uncontrollable erections of numerous commercial Bill-Boards. This road has one of the best environmental beauty scenery by its tree and shrub vegetation on either side (unlike the sprawling ‘concrete jungle’ one observes in many growing African cities), but is being increasingly masked by the uncontrolled encroachment of makeshift vendor sheds, which most are devoid of standards. In fact a foreign visiting friend of mind once remarked and likened it to a “city of Advertising Bill-Boards”!
We propose that the Barrow Government should urgently consider this traffic problem to use it as an opportunity to develop one of a highly needed project, which by its very location will be an environmental and economic development stimulus. The smart initiative is to reconstruct the trunk road into a modern dual carriage motorway, which from public conversation seem to be part of the Ministry of Works’ strategic plan. It is however, a considered opinion that this is more of a priority than a modern State-of-the-Art Airport that Barrow declared to be an agenda in an interview following his return from the inauguration of the Blaise Diagne International Airport in Senegal. The significance of this urgency is justified by the preparation of Government to host the OIC meeting in 2019 and the construction of the International Conference Centre along this Coastal Road in time for the meeting of the leaders of the Islamic Umma.
The reconstruction of this trunk road into dual carriage way will no doubt require a colossal amount of development fund that is not within reach of Government’s budget. Gleaned from the information of the inherited fiscal deficits consequent of current expenditures and debt servicing against lower revenues, one does not expect such a project proposal to be funded by Government. Clearly, with the present deteriorating traffic situation that will not endure the projected 5% motor vehicle traffic increase from current levels for next couple of years, this project is a priority that would warrant urgent engagement with our development partners who are being attracted to our new democratic dispensation.
Furthermore, the country should be geared towards modern durable road Highway that though incur high financial commitment, would serve and stand the test of times. Better left to the design of the expert civil engineers, one however, anticipates the befitting dual carriageway design would be one with additional side roads on either edges close to the buildings, which are accessed from small round tables that are constructed at different sectional points under the Highway bridges that allow entry into the side roads to the residential and shopping areas. This will then be similar to the VDN of Dakar (Voie de dégagement nord de Dakar) [Northern Clearance Road], with overhead bridges over the strategic roundtables and their corresponding side exits to join the side roads for access to residences, shopping stores etc. This form of design, unlike the deplorable design of the Westfield-Airport-Brikama dual carriageway will shine out our country as emerging and joining the recent developing cities with smart modern infrastructural roads such as Abidjan and Dakar that are allowing a boost in their local and foreign investments. Contrary to the simpleminded modest planners, we do think we have the space for such an ambitious reconstruction and would require Government to take hard decisions to revoke the encroachment and even parts of personal gardens in front of residences. We are optimistic that a development proposal with clear rationale that incorporates the priority and need elaborated above can be presented to Development Partners including Countries participating in the OIC to assist the Country in achieving such a project. It is perhaps on the minds and within the present efforts of the Government, but left to the limited time to the OIC, the nation is eager to see communication about such a plan.
We also do hope that if Government decides to embark on this, it would be wary of preserving the beautiful vegetation and institute regulation on erection of advertising-Billboards. Though, it would not be an expressway, the Road Authority could consider installation of auto toll-collection system at Stink corner (Highway toll-gate), which will be of modest fee but in the long term will serve to supplement cost of maintenance, Tree planting beautification and Road lights; a better initiative than the preponderance of Bill-Boards to collect revenues.
It is ideas that change the World and it is about time we think smart and modern in order to achieve both systems and infrastructure that will stand the test of times!