Did you know the 1959 master plan for Dhaka city was prepared to support approximately 800,000 residents? After almost 60 years, nearly 20,000,000 people live in Dhaka city, which is 25 times more than the original capacity. No wonder the capital is always congested and roads are overflowing with traffic. Although there were several revisions of the plan and numerous initiatives taken to tackle the problem, the congestion still persists. One of such plans to reduce Dhaka traffic is the construction of flyovers at multiple critical points of the capital. Currently, we have 7 flyovers spread around the city and there are plans to include a couple of more in the coming years. All these projects are expensive and require millions of dollars from public funds. But what is the ultimate effects of flyovers on traffic condition of Dhaka city?
Why Do We Need Flyovers?
The underlying concept behind flyovers is to reduce intersections and streamline traffic towards certain or multiple directions. In most cases, vehicles turning right at any intersection cause the main congestion. Plus, flyovers are a good solution to bypass interruptions such as railroads, reducing the need for a traffic signal and hence possible traffic jams. Hence, government constructed the very first flyover in Dhaka at Mohakhali Rail Crossing to connect the highway to city roads. However, the 1.12 km length flyover constructed in 2004 cannot tackle traffic during peak hours. That’s because vehicular movements have increased at a higher rate than predicted.
Did Flyovers Bring Any Changes?
According to a study by the World Bank, the average traffic speed of Dhaka city has dropped to 7km/h from 21km/h over the last 10 years. If it drops further, traffic speed will be equivalent to the average walking speed of the country or slower. For this, Dhaka loses 3.2 million working hours per day, resulting in a net loss of 1 billion dollars every day! Even though we have 7 flyovers at some of the most important intersections of the city, there seem to be no significant effects of flyovers on traffic. Surprisingly, one of our flyovers has traffic signals at two locations, the very things it was built to avoid! Therefore, city dwellers do not enjoy the core benefits of flyover in Dhaka other than the benefit of an alternative route.
Improper planning and corruption are the core reasons why flyovers are failing to reduce Dhaka’s traffic. A lot of Dhaka’s flyovers are constructed without consulting the Revised Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP). Kuril flyover, Mayor Hanif flyover built by Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), and the Moghbazar-Mouchak flyover, supervised by the Local Government Engineering Department fall under this category. Meaning, they are currently serving temporary needs but in future, government may have to demolish the flyovers and construct alternative routes as per their plans. Such unruly practices also extend to the proposed elevated expressway where it will cross over the Mayor Hanif Flyover at 70 feet, ultimately failing the entire design. Hence, until and unless government ensures proper planning for such infrastructural developments, they are not likely to add any positive value to present traffic conditions of the city.
The Way Forward
Fighting back these major problems, the Bangladesh economy is growing at a very high rate. According to experts, it will continue to do so till 2030. Plus, Bangladesh government has a city expansion plan for the capital. If they can utilize East Dhaka properly, it will shift business concentration from Dhaka, reducing traffic to a notable extent. In the meantime, while the plans are in progress, government can take alternative strategies to reduce traffic. For instance, having one-way roads and road-tolls for a certain time of the day when traffic is heavy. Also, they should give more attention to improving footpaths of the city which are mostly occupied by hawkers, forcing people to walk on the streets. If they look into these matters and take necessary initiatives, traffic conditions in Dhaka are likely to improve in future.
For a small city like Dhaka, improving road conditions is more necessary than constructing new flyovers. But most importantly, proper planning and utilization of public funds can actually enhance traffic conditions in the capital. What is your opinion on the effects of flyovers on traffic? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!