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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2426

Nugegoda Flyover and The problems that it could create

By L. Jayasooriya

No one would think that a flyover could create problems. That is in a normal world but Sri Lanka is not a normal world. There are two reasons for this which the writer will soon explain.

Only the people who have to frequent the area around the new flyover know the difficulties they have been undergoing everyday due to the lack of space in sidewalks and the dangerous driving of buses within a few inches of the pedestrians. For nearly 500 meters of road on the left hand side as one travels from Colombo to Maharagama is a row of schools in this area discharging a swarm of school children virtually shutting the place down from 1.30 PM for about an hour when it begins to ease off but children are still there even after that some doing shopping and others waiting to be picked up. In this area even when schools are in session it is not possible to walk freely without stopping or side-stepping to avoid bumping on to a pedestrian coming in the opposite direction.

The new two-lane flyover would be a great boon to everybody concerned if and only if the buses plying between Maharagama and Colombo are prohibited to use the service roads (parallel side roads below the flyover). If they are permitted to use the service roads, only through traffic would benefit but not the local residents and bus passengers because of the stagnation of buses at the traffic lights and the clogging that will take place throughout the entire length of the service roads. As I see it the second flyover will never be built in the lifetime of the Nugegoda residents the reasons for which I will now give and the suffering of the local people at Nugegoda and bus passengers will continue with even more severity unless through buses are forbidden to use the service roads.

Now I come to the second reason. When the other two-lane flyover is built adjacent to the first one, we will be having a four lane road with a median at the centre in the length covered by the twin flyovers but the High Level road is a two lane road. The 100 meter transition length the RDA has provided has no meaning because the maximum carrying capacity of the High Level road will be determined by the maximum capacity of the two lane High Level road irrespective of the length of the transition unless it is a few kilometres in which case it is a stretch of a four lane road. This 100 metre transition is bound to create a bottle neck thus reducing the capacity of the road if both flyovers are operational. Hence if the second flyover is built it will have to be closed and the RDA could put up some offices on the carriageway. The bored piles and the main girders of the bridge may be strong enough to build a two or even three storey building all along the length of the flyover which will be a unique architectural feature. I have seen a building in London built in the form of a ship. Then how about the pittu bambuwa that houses the head office of the bank of Ceylon?

Now something for the readers to think about: The RDA is building a four lane flyover to a two lane road at Nugegoda but they built a two lane bridge for the four lane Marine Drive near the Wellawatta railway station. The reader will at least now see that Sri Lanka is not a part of the normal world.

When we got independence in 1948, which is 61 years ago the RDA by whatever name it was known then and has been changing names after that could have easily reserved land for a six lane road for all the so-called “A” class roads by the simple process of prohibiting any buildings within a stipulated distance called the building line from the boundary of the of the reservation made to accommodate 6 lanes plus a median plus 2 hard shoulders plus 2 tree lines plus 2 sidewalks for urban areas Those days there were hardly any building within that corridor and today we could easily have had four lanes for the High Level road and added two more later by expanding inwards as is done all over the world and not outwards as the RDA does by not planning which means acquiring new land, destroying what has been done and rebuilding generating one set of contacts for destruction and another for rebuilding which is a carnival of contracts. Because the RDA has not enforced any building line people have built right up to the kerb on all “A” roads in the country. For that reason none of us living today could see a four lane road in our lifetime unless something drastic is done to which I will come later.

There is a lot more I can say about the RDA but there is no space for it here. I will therefore say just a little bit for the readers to think about. Do the readers know that the RDA is still using the specifications called the “Thoroughfares Ordinance” written by the British in 1861 for their bullock cart and horse drawn carriages? This is still legally in force and a photocopy could be had from the Government Publications Bureau at 132 Maya Avenue, Kirilaponne, Colombo 5 (Tel: 250 4689). The RDA by whatever name it has been known from time to time has not updated these specifications ever since independence in 1948 which is 61 years ago. Take for example clause 38 (5) which is still valid. It states that whosoever shall hang up or otherwise expose any mats, cloths or other substances on or at the side of any road in a manner calculated to terrify horses or endanger the passengers will be subject to a fine not exceeding fifty rupees. In those days a man will have to sell his house to pay 50 rupees.

None of the roads in the above specifications has been defined in terms of any kind of width. They all remain bullock car roads of undefined width. Any widening more than is necessary for a bullock cart has been ad-hoc without a general plan for the whole country.

Now we come to the beginning of the story. In the early nineteen forties lorries began to replace bullock carts that carried all the produce from estates to Pettah for loading into ships. The British then discovered that some road bends were so tight that lorries could not negotiate them. So in 1943 they amended clause 24 by specifying an arbitrary minimum distance to any building from the centre of the road whose width has not been defined to be 25 feet.

This was clearly an ad-hoc measure and they were not interested presumably because they knew that they were leaving in 1948. Since independence in 1948 the RDA by whatever name it was known then slept for 40 years till 1988 when they suddenly realized that their 40 years of blameworthy neglect in not enforcing the minimum distance to a building could put them in serious trouble. So in 1988 they amended the 1943 minimum ad hoc distance to any building from the centre line of the road whose width has not been defined to another arbitrary distance of 15 metres for "A" class roads, 12 metres for “B: class roads and 7.5 metres for "C" and "D" class roads but the four classes of roads still remain the undefined bullock cart roads. Now I will explain how a bullock cart road can be an "A" class road. To confirm this E. H. Pemaratne, Director (Planning Co-ordination) of the RDA in an article to the Island on Tuesday 27th January 1998 said and I quote "Road standards differ in geometry, foundation, width, surface, road signs and even construction materials. These standards are often based on the functional use of roads and all "A" class roads do not carry the same standards with regard to the above. In Sri Lanka there are "A" class roads that have never been asphalt carpeted while some "B" or "C" and "D" class roads are improved". End of quote and confirmation of class of road.

If all these classes had been defined by the number of lanes, median width if any, shoulders, tree lines if any, side walks in urban areas and the distance to the building line from the boundary of the road property line and not centre then it would have made sense but what stands now makes no sense and will throttle all our road transportation systems.

Realizing that the RDA will soon get into difficulties they decided to involve the National Highways Authority (NHA) in India to save their skin and signed an MoU with the National Highways Authority (NHA) of India for technical and scientific cooperation in highway construction, maintenance and management of roads which will facilitate the exchange of expertise, developments in research and knowledge.

Based on the little I have exposed about the RDA it is a downright insult to the NHA of India to even suggest that it could learn anything from the RDA.

The Financial Review of The Island of May 3, 2008 says and I quote “India can learn from Sri Lanka, at least from the mistakes we have made”, said M.B.S. Fernando, Chairman, RDA. India has never destroyed her road system the way the RDA has done and to suggest that India can learn from the mistakes the RDA has done is another insult to the NHA of India.

The best suggestion that I can make and I am sure that the readers will agree with me, would be for the Government to hand over the controls of road development to the Indian team in Sri Lanka on a contract basis and put young engineers fresh from the university to work under them if we do not want our economy to collapse.

- Asian Tribune -

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