by Dorcas Omotayo
“…Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I – I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference”.
an American Poet
I decided to open this piece with the poem, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. And of course, that is what happens when one is confronted with multiple choices, there are tendencies that in retrospect, we may laud or regret the choices we made. However, the choice to be oblivious of the degenerating infrastructure in Nigeria, and Lagos in particular, has led us to the point of not only regret but also partially shutting down the longest of three bridges connecting Lagos Island to the mainland, with equally poor and narrow alternative route.
The total length of the Third Mainland bridge is 11.8km and was opened in the year 1990. It is one of the most travelled bridges in Lagos with an average of 117,000 vehicular traffic daily. Ideally, to keep the bridge in good condition, routine and periodic maintenance should be done. It is however unimpressive to note that the last time maintenance was carried out was in the year 2018.
Lagos state with an estimated population of over 22 million people and one of the most congested cities in the world with an average life expectancy pegged at 52.2 years, was named one of the worst cities for drivers in the world according to a Forbes’ list. According to a survey, at least three of every 10 years spent in Lagos is lost to traffic. The nightmarish traffic jam, however, portends several health issues for commuters; like respiratory diseases, cancer, stroke and mental health issues.
Speaking on the closure, Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Mr. Olukayode Popoola, said; “We want to do maintenance work on Third Mainland Bridge very soon. We may close it from 24th of July. We are still working out the modalities and when we perfect the traffic management plan we will move to site. Everything being expected for the repairs of the bridge arrived the country that is why we want to start the repairs now.’’
While the news should have been received with a euphoric feeling as a step in the right direction, it was, in fact, greeted with disapproval not because it is a bad development but solely because the alternative routes and inner roads are in a deplorable states. Routes such as Iddo inwards Carter Bridge, Market Road inward Herbert Macaulay Road, Herbert Macaulay road by Abeokuta Street, Herbert Macaulay by Cemetery and Apapa inward Oyingbo have been reported to be fixed. But for how long will the roads be motorable before those patched parts begin to fall apart, ready to trap unsuspecting drivers and causing very unbearable traffic?
Meanwhile, some commuters are already feeling hopeless about the coming days. Mr. Tee, a professional driver who works with a popular cab hailing company said; “I think it is a wrong move right now, having the Oshodi-Gbagada express road and the Ikorodu road stretch to Ojota under re- construction, the traffic will be unbearable. The other good alternative route, which is the Costain bridge is also under construction. Even when the Third Mainland Bridge was in fully operational, we witnessed heavy traffic on the Eko bridge, how much more now that a partial closure will be enforced.”
“I am certain that a lot of people who commute from the Mainland to the Island due to their work will have to be up as early as 2am, just to avoid being stuck in traffic. A lot of drivers would likely decline taking trips along that route because at some point there would be heavy traffic which will create a surge into every part of the city. I advise that the alternative roads be fixed first before embarking on this project.” He added.
According to the Federal Road Safety Corp, Public Education Officer (CPEO), Bisi Kazeem, he said: “Traffic will be diverted to make way for the maintenance work on the bridge. The expected diversion for Phase A in the morning – from 12.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. – motorists plying from Oworonshoki to Lagos Island traffic will only be on the Lagos island bound lane. In the afternoon from 1.00 p.m. to 12.00 a.m., motorists travelling from Lagos Island to Oworonshoki, traffic will only be on the Lagos Island bound lane”.
Ultimately, this decision should spur the government into exploring other means of transportation like the waterways and ensuring that it is functional during and after the maintenance period. The Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA) Spokesperson, Nosa Okunbor said; “As part of moves, the DG said LASEMA has earmarked Ebute Ero and Ilaje as strategic locations for its ambulances and will mount its rescue boats in conjunction with the Lagos State Waterways Authority, on all waterways of Lagos, while its marine unit will mount a 24-hour watch over the waterways with Jet Skis fully deployed, particularly between the peak periods of 6.30am and 7pm, as a lot more passengers will be advised to travel through alternate routes and the waterways, while the partial closure of Lagos Third Mainland Bridge lasts.”
It is a known fact that road network in Lagos is fused into one. The traffic situation in the next six months of this repair will be unprecedented. Moreso, people who rarely drive their vehicle prior to the outbreak of the dreaded COVID-19 have started driving to avoid contracting the disease while in transit. The timing for the closure might not be an easy pill for commuters in Lagos.
Notwithstanding, the partial closure would negatively impact on the economy, as it will slow down business activities and the delivery of goods and services — especially for players in the manufacturing and logistics business. But, the difference is that, six months from now the Third Mainland Bridge would be fit for use again, commuters would have adjusted to a transport system that suits their demand, more people would explore the waterways and also some businesses may have to adopt the work from home strategy to boost staff productivity just like it was done during the lockdown.
Let Commuters hope for the best as repairs commences tomorrow.