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March 16, 2019

Narrow bridges, dilapidated Islamabad Highway in need of urgent attention


March 16, 2019

Islamabad : While it was already an ordeal for the commuters travelling up and down Islamabad Highway every day, the recent rains have turned their life even more miserable.

Movement of unimaginably over-loaded trucks and trailers, rolling up and down at snail’s pace has caused cracks, fissure and deep ruts on both sides of the Islamabad Highway, particularly from T-chowk on G.T. Road up to the bridge on Korang Nullah.

These cracks and fissures have turned into pits and potholes already and with no rehabilitation measures in sight, these pits and potholes are soon going to turn into ditches and trenches on the Islamabad Highway.

However, there is a flicker of hope down the lane as the Deputy Commissioner Islamabad, Hamza Shafqaat has recently disclosed that the government has allocated Rs. 10 billion for completing the previously announced project of turning the Islamabad Highway into a ‘5-lane signal free Expressway’.

When contacted, the CDA Spokesperson, also confirmed that the government is going to allocate Rs10 billion for completing this ‘5-lane signal free Islamabad Expressway from T-chowk to Khayaban Iqbal’.

“The CDA is expected to get this money allocated and released in the next PSDP (Public Sector Development Programme),” the CDA spokesperson told ‘The News’.

Islamabad Highway, probably, is the most congested road one travels through. There are no traffic count surveys available with the Capital Development Authority (CDA), the National Highway Authority (NHA), the Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) or even the National Transport Research Centre (NTRC).

The last country-wide traffic count survey was conducted back somewhere in 1976 or 1977 by the NTRC. Since then no such exercise was conducted despite the fact that the road and motorways network has expanded throughout the country.

The last government of the PML-N started the project to make the Islamabad Highway a five-lane signal free Expressway from T-Chowk on GT Road in the south right up to the Khayaban-e-Iqbal (former Margalla Road).

As part of the project the CDA constructed three inter-changes at ‘Sohan’, ‘Khana Pul’ and ‘Karal Chowk’ to remove three traffic signals and make this length of the Islamabad Expressway a 5-lane signal free route.

However, the much more critical part of the project, the ‘Korang Nullah’ bridge to ‘T-Chowk’ was abandoned for some inexplicable reasons despite the fact that it was not only much more important but was also approved in budget to be completed by December 2018.

The young officers of the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), especially the Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat and the Assistant Commissioner (Rural) Umer Randhawa, had issued some very important administrative directions to help ease the problems of commuters using the Islamabad Highway as well as to provide much needed relief to the inhabitants of the private housing societies.

But one must concede that the residents of the thickly populated private housing societies on both sides of the Islamabad Highway also need to share a certain amount of responsibility and extend help and cooperation to the CDA as well as the ICT administration who have been trying to bring some relief in their lives.

There is no doubt that the residents of all these private sector housing societies, including the giant Bahria Town, will be the best beneficiaries of this project once it is completed. Two big private housing societies have already set an example in this regard.

The ‘Gulberg Green’ have constructed one of the best under-pass to maintain an uninterrupted and smooth flow of traffic at their entrance on the Islamabad Highway. Similarly, the Naval Anchorage also has constructed a mini fly-over to facilitate the residents of their own society. It was also learnt that the ‘Defense Housing Society’ is also contemplating to construct a fly-over upward of ‘Sawan Bridge’ on their own.

The amount of Rs10 billion is being allocated to turn the existing two-lane road into four-lane from Korang Nullah bridge up to T-Chowk, widen the existing two-lane bridges into five-lane including the Korang Nullah, the railway over-head bridge, the Bhinder bridge and the Swan river bridge.

The most thickly populated private sector housing societies, including Bahria Town, are located on both sides of the Islamabad Highway between Korang Nullah to Naval Anchorage. As the public transport system is almost non-existent to facilitate the residents of these societies, almost 90 per cent of inhabitants own their personal vehicles or at least motorbikes.

And thousands of vehicles of all type disgorge onto the Islamabad Highway from these societies, over 90 per cent of those heading for Islamabad and return in the evening. If these housing societies may extend cooperation to the CDA, the way the Gulberg Green and the Naval Anchorage have already done, it would be easier as well as quicker for the Authority to construct a couple of strategically located inter-changes, under-passes and overhead bridges, to ease the flow of traffic in all directions.

A senior official in the CDA told ‘The News’ that the money allocated for the ‘Islamabad Expressway Project’ will be utilized for widening and construction of all these four bridges.

“The ones, which are in bad condition, will be reconstructed as well, a factor which may enhance the scope of work on the project,” he added.

“Other work includes the widening of the existing two-lane road. According to the plan, two more lanes will be added on both sides and the existing road, which is in very bad shape at a number of spots, will be repaired and rehabilitated,” he said.

He said that if the government released the announced amount of Rs. 10 billion for the project to be allocated in the PSDP, the CDA can launch the work instantly and the whole project could be completed over the next two to three years time.

Meanwhile, it is the responsibility of the Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) as well as the ICT administration to try and provide as much relief as they could to the commuters. In fact, the Deputy Commissioner, Hamza Shafqaat, has already issued directions to prevent movement of heavy traffic, all trucks and trailers, from 7 am to 9 am in morning and from 5 pm to 7 pm in evening. The initiative was widely appreciated. However, it has been observed that these directions are being followed in the morning but not so strictly in the evening.

Similarly, the Assistant Commissioner (Rural), Umer Randhawa, has been actively engaged in creating a ‘fish-belly U-turn’ at ‘Khokhar Hotel’ traffic signal, the only traffic signal left on the Islamabad Highway. He also has removed the unnecessary and unacceptably high speed breakers from the PWD road, again a step which has earned the young officer a lot of appreciation.

And the CDA is required to send out its teams from the Directorate of Roads, if it is still with the CDA and has not been handed over to the Municipal Corporation of Islamabad (MCI), to assess the damages caused to the roads during the rainy season and how it could be repaired on urgent basis to keep the traffic moving smoothly and prevent any unfortunate accident.

The NTRC also can play a role by using their expertise and conduct a month-long traffic count survey on not only this segment of the Islamabad Highway but also on the Kashmir Highway and the IJP (Inter-Junction Principal) Road to collect much needed data on the traffic volume and its flow in all directions at different times of the day and night.

This data will help the road engineers in the CDA to plan construction with a futuristic approach and to the ITP to make a strategy to control traffic with the knowledge what sort of volume of traffic they have to deal with.

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