An Alternative To Consider
Jahangir Chowk-Rambagh Flyover Project: Why this multi-million ADB-funded project need be reconsidered?
The Economic Reconstruction Agency representative Mr. Khalid Muzaffar’s Counter Point (GK May 2, 2002) to my write up: Defacing the City (GK April 24, 2012), in particular his thought for “the debate to go on as it educates us further to a better tomorrow for our people” is appreciated and welcomed.
The ERA response to my half a dozen written requests for considering an alternative to the Flyover project took three years. That too after my protest to the Asia Development Bank (ADB) for posting the Flyover related documents on the ADB web site. Thus, ERA’s assertion that its email to me had not been responded “so far” – that is within six days – seems disingenuous. For the record, I have responded; my recommended alternative to the Flyover was sent to ERA on April 23, 2012. More on that later. First let me clarify the underlying issues:
One. The ERA assertion that the Jahangir Chowk to Rambagh travel time for vehicles moving over the “elevated corridor “ will be reduced to 2.5 minutes from the present 16 minutes is not relevant. The point is the Flyover will not decongest the traffic on the Airport Corridor. And here is why: As noted in the ERA report, the Flyover is designed to carry four lanes for traffic movement on top of the existing four lanes of the street at the surface level. The Flyover support structure will reduce, at a minimum, one traffic lane at the surface level. This means the Flyover will get a net gain of three traffic lanes. However, as described in the ERA report there are three roads, each 4 lanes that feed into the Rambagh intersection. That is a total of 12 lanes of traffic. Traffic moves like water. The present Flyover project design is like having three water pipes, each four inches diameter, feed into just one five inch diameter pipe. The flyover may reduce the commute time from 16 minutes to 2.5 minutes for the 2.5 km distance, but it will not relieve the traffic congestion in the area. Just like in a water pipe, when there is a clog, water backs up; similarly for traffic when there is clog, you get a traffic jam. The alternative that I propose for ERA consideration can provide up to 12 additional lanes of traffic, without any change to the present Jahangir Chowk Rambagh route.
Two. The ERA assertion that the structural design “is adequate and safe” to meet the challenge of seismic upheavals must be questioned. In the most recent earthquake in Los Angeles, miles of elevated freeway collapsed. Nearer home recall the October 2005 earthquake in Azad Kashmir. Many “engineered structures” including 9,200 schools were destroyed. With all due respect to the expertise of ERA Consultants and IIT Roorke, an “earthquake-proof structural design” is not possible. In a place like Srinagar that falls in a very critical seismic zone options other than building structures like flyovers are best.
Three. I maintain that the Flyover will be an ugly intrusion in Srinagar’s “heritage” design. ERA suggestion by pointing to the two “prestigious projects of Delhi” seem to say that what is done in Delhi, as bad as it may be, is good enough for Srinagar. Sorry, but that is unacceptable. My vision of Srinagar is that of a garden city because Srinagar is a city in an alpine country. Srinagar is a city on water. Srinagar is surrounded by mountains. My vision of Srinagar is of tree-lined boulevards and pedestrian-friendly walkways and waterways. My design vision for Srinagar is not a cement concrete jungle. If that is “the bogey of heritage design”, so be it.
Four. Building of freeways and flyovers is an outdated planning concept. Planning Pandits of Delhi may not have caught up to it, but in cities known for cutting edge planning, flyover freeways are being replaced by surface streets. And the reason for it, as noted earlier, is that traffic moves like water. More roads bring more cars. So it is reasoned that to make liveable cities, emphasis should not be on moving cars but on moving people. And thus modern planning focus is on developing multimodal mass transit, rather than catering just for the automobiles.
Five. The ERA claims that the flyover “is bound to provide succour to thousands of people” is not true. Indeed, it is my assessment that in addition to not relieving the traffic congestion, the Flyover will do great harm to the businesses, pedestrians and adjacent communities along the “project road”. And here is why: As per the ERA report during the flyover construction period, a 12-15 meter wide area in the middle of the road will be blocked and barricaded. This area presumably will be the construction zone. The Aerodrome Road between Jahangir Chowk and Rambagh Bridge will be designated as a one way street, north-bound. The south bound traffic will be routed on the existing two streets east of Amar Singh college, both made as one way south, up to the flood channel bund. From the bund the traffic will be routed west ward on the Channel bund up to the Rambagh Bridge. And here is the kicker: along the project road (from Rambagh to Jahangir Chowk) the existing foot paths are to be levelled. Parking of vehicles will be banned. Stopping of vehicles will also be banned.
Question: With no footpaths, no parking, no stopping, how will the businesses along the project road survive during the years of construction. The construction period is projected to be three years; it will more likely be two to three times that. Where will the walking public go? And during this construction period how will the diverted traffic impact living in residential areas around the Amar Singh College and in Gogji Bagh.
There has to be a better alternative.
The Alternative that I proposed for ERA consideration is a new street grid for the area adjacent to the Airport Road. There are several components to the proposal, as follows:
For the North South direction build two new roads. First one extends the old Airport road starting at the Doodganga Bridge (near the Bone and Joint Hospital). This first road would reconstruct the old bridge and rehabilitate the old Airport road alignment into a four lane arterial street leading up to the flood spill channel. Construct a new bridge across the flood spill Channel near the newly built government office complex. On the north side of the flood channel widen the existing road along the eastern boundary of Rasham Khana property. Then continue the road along east side of the police department property to meet with the New Secretariat road. Please note that more than three forth of this road alignment is in place. Most of the proposed widening would be on adjacent and underutilized land on the Rasham Khana and Police property.
As a companion to the Airport road build an off shoot road to extend the Natipora Road along east of Mahjoor Nagar to join the Jawahar Nagar road with a bridge on Flood Spill Channel. This new road would branch off from the Natipora road approximately halfway between the Rambagh Bridge and the Bye-pass Road. Note most of this area is open land.
To facilitate the east west traffic movement the south side of Flood Spill Channel Bund would be improved to connect the above north south two streets. Also, a new street along the north side of Doodganga could connect the Natipora Road with the old airport road alignment.
The proposed alternative of new roads could add four to six new traffic lanes in each direction at the surface level. Given that these are all surface streets the cost and completion time could be shorter than the proposed Flyover project. And more important, the new roads being separated by a distance from the existing Airport road would reduce traffic congestion on the existing Airport road between Rambagh and Jahangir Chowk. Also, the new roadway designed appropriately can be a catalyst for redevelopment of its adjoining area, much of which appears underdeveloped. Thus, the new road would provide room for new development.
The proposed flyover is an outdated model and a single purpose project. Its adverse impacts are many: (1) The pylons and elevated structure restrict access and light along the Airport Road; (2) It devalues adjacent properties because of increased noise, vibrations and air pollution; (3) Flyover structure is out of scale and character of the area; (4) The elevated road will harm liveability for some 1,000 housing units in the Silk Factory Bazaar area; (5) It will not relieve traffic congestion; (6) There is potential for seismic catastrophic damage; (7) And it will cause adverse conditions and congestion in the area during the construction period.
The proposed alternative avoids all the above impacts and provides for the new and improved surface streets. As a bonus, in addition to improving traffic circulation, it adds value to the adjacent land; it opens new land for development. It will improve the economic well being of Srinagar. Thus, it meets the objectives of ADB’s funding.
Appeal to the People of Srinagar:
The Flyover project is not a done deal. The Asia Development Bank has not as yet approved the funding to build the flyover.
Nallah Mar fell victim to the short-sighted and ill-advised road building project in the 1970’s. What was an iconic navigational channel is now a nondescript street. Please do not let another Mar like disaster happen again. Do not sit on the side lines; Raise your voice.
Rafique A. Khan is a Kashmiri-American Redevelopment Planner based in Los Angeles, California.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 9 May 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 9 May 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 10 May 2012 00:00:00 IST
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