Driving on the motorway has become anything but enjoyable. It has become dangerous, inconvenient, slow, obstructive, conflicting and even annoying. So on the morning when Citi FM together with the Police started their campaign to curb, all occupants of my car were pleased with their effort. Much more will be needed to stop illegal U-turns, driving along the shoulders of the road and all the danger we see on the motorway and many other roads in most highly urbanized roads in Ghana.
Prior to the presence of cameras and journalists, the police always arrested offending drivers most mornings. Somehow they never ended up in court in scores and droves. You are tempted to ask where the “fines” went. And of course, those tinted, siren-blaring 4-wheel drives that prefer to use the shoulders of the motorway, undermine these areas and eventually destroy the roads are allowed to drive off. You should not be surprised to see a policeman salute them.
However, the focus in fighting recalcitrant traffic breaches as we have seen lately in my humble opinion, should be towards a more permanent and civilized solution that should control road use in Ghana in general.
The motorway serves as a good case study. It was opened in November 1965. As a highway there was no need to have street lights on it. In June 2002 we saw it lighted for the first, time since it was becoming unsafe; incessant robberies, potholes and increased pedestrian activities, as communities grew around it.
The speed classification was about 120km/h from the onset. But lately, it takes approximately 27 minutes to cross the 19.3km stretch at peak hours and about 15 minutes otherwise. This means the average speed on the motorway now is barely 43km/h in the mornings and evenings and probably just about 77km/h off-peak.
Urban expressways are designed for speeds of about 80km/h and arterial and sub-arterial roads are designed to accommodate about 50km/h. The classification of the motorway is gradually getting closer to a distributor or collector road and it bears all the characteristics of such road classification. It begs the question of whether we should still treat it as an expressway or be forward thinking and properly look at all the planning requirements to reclassify it.
One of the key qualities of an urban sub-arterial road is its multi-access. They connect communities and zoned areas. The Motorway has become just that. Various warehouses now have direct access. Some of these warehouses were initially designed with accesses from the industrial zones areas. Due to weak development control, these warehouses and factories have created accesses to the motorway and the Ghana Highway Authority whose jurisdiction the motorway falls has done nothing about it.
Traditionally, our nodal distribution transportation system festers trotro, taxi and okada stations along urbanized arterial roads at points where they feed into communities. There are clear stops that we refuse to plan for. Our planning still focuses on privately owned vehicles and not for commercial vehicles. A broader user scope must be looked at to give more sustainable engineering solutions. Let me explain with a few examples on the motorway.
Tema Motorway Roundabout had trotro, taxi and okada terminals at almost three corners of the roundabout prior to the commencement of the construction of the interchange. There was the taxi station which occupied part of the Total Filling Station. This taxi station has encroached the filling station and it keeps growing. Then there was another trotro station just across that had the Aflao direction bound vehicles on the same side as the Tarzan/Winners Chapel stretch. Then there was the Akosombo direction bound trotro station that also had a station for towing vehicles.
The public is yet to be shown where these lorry parks will be re-located along with the commercial and increased activities that come with it.
When the abattoir connector was being designed, it is certain that the documentation picked up a taxi rank that had grown in size very close to the slaughter house. The road designers had all the land to accommodate a decent taxi rank that could have been planned to make the area safer and more organized. Of course, most junctions become nodal transportation hubs and this could have easily been identified. This is a clear omission and once again, individual citizens would try and have their own convenient solutions. They will stop and attempt to scuttle across the motorway. As pedestrians cross vehicles slow down are exposed to danger. A foot bridge could have been added to make crossing safer for pedestrians. This point has become a dangerous conflict point and many souls have been lost. Buses stop and there is no lay-by. They join the motorway at speeds that cause accidents every now and then. The planning was simply inadequate.
There are a few more stops that is are clearly a result of the motorway’s classification on a gradual decline. In fact, there are other evolving issues resulting from the growth of settlements. A careful study of originating traffic from parts of the neighboring communities and the destinations clearly show that many interchanges may be needed at about three areas along the motorway. These, when introduced will reduce cost and time of travel for motorists. Anyone who lives in Community 18 and its environs and work at East Legon area will confirm this. Unfortunately, in planning in Ghana, desire paths are defined and planning rather follows and this must be reversed.
These are strong pull factors. Ghana Highway Authority should consider declassifying the motorway as a highway and hand over the road to urban roads. Tolls collection must stop. Our transportation planners should start considering integrating the roads to some key community accesses and make the use sustainable. Planning is a tool that should make the use of such public infrastructure convenient, safe and sustainable. Our agencies must learn to do broader consultation in planning our infrastructure to bring change.