|Illustrative image.—VNS File Photo
by Nguyen Thu Hien
Recent decisions by Ha Noi leaders to remove new footbridges and upgrade a newly-built flyover have stunned citizens - and made the city's traffic situation a hot topic.
For example, the sudden decision to build a new flyover bridge at the junction of O Cho Dua has caused concern about its effectiveness and negative impacts on heritage surrounds,
The ad hoc decisions can only be compared to an architect's or engineer's drawings. Only they, until now, have the time and leisure to add this shape or that, making things bigger or smaller according to whim or demand - and then erasing the unwanted bits.
But surely bridges and traffic works costing billions of dong can't be compared to drawings - especially when they are paid for with public money. Not so in Ha Noi! A road or bridge can be suddenly "added" to a place at any point of time and "erased" just as quickly. The city has already spent more than VND200 billion (US$9.5 million) building 18 footbridges over streets, and then left them idle.
Two years after the erection of footbridges, city authorities now want to add two new flyover bridges at the junctions of Dai Co Viet – Tran Khat Chan and Nguyen Chi Thanh-Lieu Giai. Unfortunately for those paying, the taxpayers, the two footbridges at this location must now be removed!
With the same amount of money, more than 2,000 tonnes of rice could have been bought for the hungry. Or several bridges can have been built in mountain regions where children have to swim, paddle and wade to school.
The lives of thousands of country people can be improved by careful spending of a few million dong. But in Ha Noi, the leader of the city's Department of Transport said: "Footbridges are not forever. They are built to meet contemporary demands in a locality. Replacing them cannot be called a waste." He even added that it was impossible to avoid clashes between the old traffic works and the new ones.
With such short-sighted logic by the official and other leaders, how many traffic works will be removed or replaced shortly after construction? Just one example: a flyover bridge at the junction of Lang Ha-Thai Ha is up for "consolidation" just one year after being built to lift its weight-bearing capacity to more than three tonnes. This is to serve a new express bus. The money for this "amendment" will be VND10 billion ($476,000).
Another example of short-sighted logic is that flyover bridges are being used to try and overcome traffic jams any junction. Come on! Flyover bridges certainly work in some places, but not where all the streets are narrow.
And what to do with once smooth-flowing roads like Lieu Giai and Nguyen Chi Thanh, which are now often full of traffic jams. And what to do with National Highway No 32 which took more than 10 years to build and is falling apart in places? Perhaps, these roads will also be "consolidated" just after being accomplished due to short-sighted calculations.
Bui Danh Lien, chairman of the capital's Transport Association has admitted that the city's traffic systems have been built in a patchy way. But the public is not happy to learn that major transport works have involved such poor planning - nothing long-term or sustainable.
It is argued that our leaders may have no time to worry about this because they are busy fixing instant road crises as they occur on our overloaded and chaotic road system.Their planning seems to be to pour a little water on every fire.
But citizens, and the nation, are paying a high price in several directions for these patchwork plans that cost hundreds of billions of dong every year.
Why aren't planners forced to consult population statistics and potential growth charts before they make long-term plans? Why don't they understand that if new residential buildings go up nearby roads need to be enlarged or traffic chaos will occur?
Moreover, all traffic and development plans should be connected to make sure they operate in a harmonious way. The old streets of the city were arranged like a chess board - and still manage to work. But often now, if looking at new city maps, streets have become a giant mess.
As traffic leaders have repeatedly displayed their ineptness, another mechanism is needed that asks for the participation of citizens and especially experts in drawing the plans for all traffic works. It is time money was used in a smart way to build a long-term and comprehensive traffic system! — VNS