As the Federal Government plans to shut the popular Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos for repairs by weekend, residents and workers in the state are worried on the implication of the bridge closure on them. MURITALA AYINLA reports
It was initially shocking to many residents and visitors in Lagos when the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Mr. Adedamola Kuti, reportedly disclosed that plans were ongoing to shut down the Third Mainland Bridge for repairs for 27 months. The report left many wondering what manner of repairs would last for 27 months. While some marveled at what would be the traffic situation in the state, if the plan closure was real, others believed that Lagos would certainly be totally shut down for economic activities should its busiest bridge close for over two years.
While the controversies were still trending, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, was quick to debunk the report, saying that that the bridge would only be closed for three days commencing from July 27, 2018, contrary to reports that it would be closed for 27 months.
According to the minister: “I think somebody mistook the date, July 27 for 27 months. I don’t know how that came about but there was a signed statement from my office and it didn’t contain 27 months.
“The statement we put out said that it was going to be closed for three days, from July 27 to 29. We were torn between maintenance, safety and people’s convenience. But essentially, the first three days at the end of this month, as issued in our press statement, will be for investigative work to be conducted to assess the current condition of the bridge.”
Explaining reason for the repair, he said: “There is a procurement for maintenance that has been approved but between that time and now, some things may have changed. So, we wanted to do an examination again just to be sure that there has been no material deterioration beyond what we procured. After that, our engineers and contracting firms will then lay out the plan of works.
“Some of the equipment and materials have to be imported, either later in the year or early next year; then we will be able to start the repair. That will imminently compel some closure as we have had in the past when I was governor. We closed it for about 12 weeks but this time, we will try to reduce the period of closure as much as possible. That bridge must not collapse and it needs maintenance. It was built more than 30 years ago,” he said.
Despite the clarification, there are still fears over negative impact the closure of the bridge might be on business owners, corporate organization, residents and other categories of people who use the bridge on daily basis. Their fear was aggravated by the worsening traffic snarl caused by the menace of articulated truck drivers on Apapa Expressway, who indiscriminately parked on major highway leading to Apapa. The gridlock has extended to Oshodi_Apapa expressway, Funsho Williams Avenue, Ikorodu Road and Mile 2-Orile Road and other areas that could have served as alternative should the Federal government shut the Third Mainland for repairs as announced.
Concerned by the deteriorating traffic situation and the planned bridge closure, the Lagos State Government said that it might appeal to the Federal Government to consider shifting the proposed closure dates for the Third Mainland Bridge following the continued gridlock daily experienced by motorists and pedestrians in Apapa axis.
The state government explained that shifting of the bridge closure for repair to a later date would prevent compounding situation as Ikorodu Road and adjoining roads will be inadequate to cope, if Third Mainland Bridge is shut for repairs at a time that Apapa-Oshodi express road and others leading in and out of the ports are experiencing an unusual traffic snarl.
Consequently, the state government set up a Joint Task Force which comprised security agencies and stakeholders in the maritime sector to remove all containerized trucks and tankers parked along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway and other roads.
Unsatisfied with the minister’s explanation on the need for the bridge to undergo other repairs, some residents in the state are worried by impact of the bridge closure on their lives and businesses, saying that the bridge is too important to be closed for three days.
According to them, the Federal Government must collaborate with the state on the modality for managing traffic expected to be generated or worsened by the closure, saying that every palliative work on the alternative roads must also be carried out before the closure date.
Speaking with New Telegraph, Uche Kingsley, a banker in Marina on Lagos Island, said that the closure would certainly affect motorists, saying that not every motorist in Lagos understands and know alternative roads other than Third Mainland Bridge.
Commending the Federal Government for fixing the closure and for not fixing the closure date for weekdays, he added that lesser people would be affected on Friday to Sunday closure.
But for Mr Sikiru Adebayo, a trader on Lagos Island, commuting in Lagos during the closure period would result to untold hardship for the road users. He said that irrespective of the time fixed for the repairs, there were categories of residents who must commute from mainland to Island daily, urging the state and Federal Government to do everything necessary cushion the effect on the people.
“We are aware of the report on the closure of the bridge for this weekend. While some people who work in the corporate organization may not come out at all, some of us who are traders can’t afford not to be on Island every day for our businesses. So, we want Governor Ambode to work with Fashola, the minister on the modality in order to ensure smooth vehicular movement during the period,” he said.
Also speaking, Clara Ademowo, who lives in Ijora, warned both governments to ensure roads leading to Apapa and other roads currently blocked by tankers are cleared before the closure.
“For now, anybody driving through Ikorodu road will understand what tankers and trucks are currently doing on the roads. We go through hell going to office and coming back home. Roads and bridges have been taken over by the trucks. I can only imagine how bad it will be if the Federal Government shuts the Third Mainland Bridge.”
Meanwhile, as the residents commend the Federal Government for considering the 30-year old bridge worthy of maintenance, they also appealed to government to focus on other bridges, which they said are older than Third Mainland Bridge and are more exposed to risk.
They said that all the bridges leading to Apapa and Ijora also require more urgent attention than TMB, saying they had been taken over by trucks parked on them for months.
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