The announcement by the Federal Government to close down the Third Mainland Bridge, the longest and most popular bridge in Lagos for six months with effect from July 24 is causing fears and panic among Lagosians, Daily Trust on Sunday reports.
The unease, apprehension and anxiety expressed since Tuesday when the Federal Government announced the closure of the bridge for six months could be ascribed to the expected terrific gridlock such development would trigger.
For workers, especially those who ply their trade on Lagos Island, the fear is actually real and genuine. Even motorists dread the draining traffic jam which the closure of the bridge would cause.
On a normal day, Third Mainland Bridge which is the longest of the three bridges connecting the Lagos Mainland to the Island, is one of the major traffic prone routes in Lagos, the nation’s commercial capital notorious for traffic gridlock. The other bridges are Eko Bridge and Carter Bridge.
In retrospect, the bridge which opened in 1990 with 11.8km length was the longest bridge in Africa until 1996 when the 6th October Bridge located in Cairo Egypt was completed.
Prior to the announcement by the Federal Controller of Works in the state, Engr. Olukayode Popoola, there have been concerns and fears over some expansion joints in the bridge shaking. Twice, videos have gone viral of shaky expansion joints. Twice, the Federal Government quelled fears by motorists, saying though the joints are due for change, they are still safe for use and do not pose any structural danger.
It would be recalled that the bridge was last closed for repairs in August 2018 for three days to enable the authorities carry out investigative maintenance checks.
But this time around, the closure is expected to last over a period of six months as announced by the new state controller of works.
Popoola explained that there would be diversion of traffic in two phases during the partial closure of the bridge between Friday July 24, 2020 and January 24, 2021.
He said the Phase One which will last for three months for repairs of the Oworonsoki bound lane of the Third Mainland Bridge, would be for morning traffic from 12am to 1pm from Oworonshoki to Lagos Island on the Lagos Island bound lane, while the afternoon traffic from 1pm to 12am would be from Lagos Island to Oworonsoki on the Lagos Island bound lane.
The Phase Two, which he stated would also last for three months for repairs of the Lagos Island bound lane of the bridge, would be for morning traffic from 12am to 1pm from Oworonsoki to Lagos Island on the Oworonsoki bound lane, while the afternoon traffic from 1pm to 12am would be from Lagos Island to Oworonsoki on the Oworonsoki bound lane.
Some of the concerns raised by the residents stemmed from the condition of some of the alternative routes available for motorists. For instance, residents who spoke with our correspondent observed that closing the Third Mainland Bridge when Eko Bridge and New Costain Bridge are still closed could worsen traffic gridlock and the woes of motorists and commuters considering the volume of traffic on that axis.
Davidson Adekunle, who lives at Berger and works on the Island, said Lagosians should brace up for the chaotic traffic the closure of the bridge would cause. He plies the route daily.
“Third Mainland Bridge is about the busiest bridge in Lagos especially in the morning when many workers go to their respective offices at Victoria Island, Lekki and Ikoyi axis. You know how it is always busy in the morning when returning to work. So, it is going to be a major inconvenience for all of us,” he said.
A Lekki resident, Miss Okwara Chukwu, said, “I cannot imagine what the traffic situation would look like.”
A Danfo (bus) driver, Lukman Adedeji, who plies Ikeja-Obalende route, pointed out that the Ikorodu Road which would have been a major alternative has many sections dilapidated. “We will encourage the government to embark on massive rehabilitation of parts of Ikorodu Road from Maryland to Fadeyi which are not in good condition. There are some big potholes especially on the service lane of Ikorodu Road from Costain that need urgent attention. You have to take this into consideration before closing the Third Mainland Bridge.”
Speaking with Daily Trust on Sunday, the Controller of Works explained that government would have completed the Eko Bridge before contemplating the Third Mainland Bridge closure but the contract for the bridge had been awarded since 2018 with a two-year period which elapses August this year. He said Eko Bridge work on the other hand is an emergency work which was necessitated by the shaky deck of the bridge which he explained had almost fallen. “We noticed that and it is being treated as emergency,” he said.
Popoola further explained that the repair works would have been carried out during the COVID-19 lockdown but many people including the contractors were home with their families for fear of the virus.
“The closure is going to be partial. We would work on one lane while the other lane would be free for traffic. Each lane would be closed for a period of three months,” he said, adding that work is ongoing on Ikorodu Road which would also serve as alternative route.
“There is no fear, the contractor would be working day and night. We are collaborating with law enforcement agents, traffic officials to provide security for us. We have been having meetings with the state traffic agency (LASTMA) and Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC),” he added.
The FRSC Corps Marshal, Mr. Boboye Oyeyemi, had also listed several alternative roads for motorists.
A statement by Bisi Kazeem, the Corps Public Education Officer, said motorists from Obalende on Lagos Island intending to use the bridge “are advised to navigate through Carter Bridge-Iddo-Oyingbo-Adekunle-Herbert Macaulay Way-Jibowu-Ikorodu road and connect their destination.”
Alternatively, he said they should pass through Carter Bridge-Ijora Causeway – (Ijora Olopa by LAWMA Office) Eko Bridge through Funsho Williams Avenue-Ikorodu Road for further transit.
“Motorists from Lekki/Victoria Island intending to use the third mainland bridge are advised to use the Ozumba Mbadiwe Road or Ahmadu Bello Way-Bonny Camp Independence Bridge (Mekunwen Bridge) – Onikan (by Zone 2 Police Zonal Headquarters) – Marina Bridge-Apongbon-Eko Bridge-Funsho Williams Avenue to Ikorodu and so forth.
“For road users driving inwards Adekunle from Adeniji and from Lekki/Ikoyi/Obalende/Lagos Island, they are advised to Link Cater Bridge-Iddo-Oyingbo-Ebute Metta-Adekunle to advance further.”
The State Commissioner for Transportation, Dr. Frederic Oladeinde, and Special Adviser to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Works, Engr. Aramide Adeyoye, however assured Lagosians that necessary measures would be put in place to reduce gridlocks during the partial closure.
Listing the identified alternatives, the Federal Controller of Works said, “Motorists are advised to also ply these alternative routes: First, from Carter Bridge through Iddo through Oyingbo to join Adekunle Camp inward Oworonsoki. Secondly, from Ijora Olopa through Western Avenue to Ikorodu Road.”
The Commissioner for Transportation, giving further insights on the closure and the plan to ease the traffic burden on motorists, explained that priority would be given to those driving from Mainland to the Island in the morning and afternoon to use the Third Mainland while those driving against traffic will use the alternative routes.
The commissioner while stressing the need for reduction of vehicles on the road during the partial closure of the bridge said that those who don’t have any genuine reason to be on the road should stay at home.
He said there would be increase in the number of public vehicles to encourage people to leave their vehicles at home to make the road less congested.
He said: “If you don’t have to travel, I will advise that you stay at home so that we can minimise the number of vehicles on the road. If you can work at home, please do. But if you can’t, we will ensure to be on the road for you to get to your destination as quickly as possible.”
Notwithstanding the assurances from both the Federal and state governments, the huge volume of vehicles on Lagos road has been a source of concern to residents and triggered fear of more hardship and pain when the bridge is shut down albeit partially.
In Lagos, traffic gridlock has been a sore point of the state mega city status seemingly defying solutions.
According to Mr. Patrick Adenusi, the coordinator of Road Safety Without Borders, about 250,000 vehicles are trapped in Lagos traffic on a daily basis. He said the closure of the third mainland bridge when Eko Bridge has not been reopened would spell doom for motorists.
Adenusi said: “Eko Bridge is already closed and the effect of that is already visible. It is cheaper to close the bridge and be inconvenienced than any of the motoring public falls into the lagoon and we have large number of fatalities.
“That is on that side. However, there are other areas that they could work on. For instance, the Carter Bridge is not really accessible because the Leventis end is in terrible state and has not been fixed. Ikorodu Road is a two-lane road.”
He said the Ikorodu Road would have been a better alternative but for the poor attitude of the motoring public who lacks lane discipline.
He said: “Ikorodu Road is a two-lane road. If we form two lanes on Ikorodu, the queue may be long but the flow would be steady. But because we are not following the rules guiding the use of the road, our supposed smartness which is actually lawlessness compounds our travel time and makes us incur huge losses. Every day in Lagos, we lose 250m on extra fuel usage.
“By the time we close the Third Mainland Bridge, we would have increased travel time. Unfortunately, we don’t have other viable means of transport. I will suggest people should endeavour to do car pooling. For example, as I speak to you, we are four in a car now. We would have gone out with four cars but we have three vehicles off the road. So, if a lot of people do car pooling, you will discover that you might reduce some percentage from the volume of vehicles off the road and still be able to help in managing the flow of traffic and our travel time might also get better,” he added.
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