In the wake of the closure of 22-year-old Africa’s longest bridge snaking approximately 11.8km along the edge of the Lagos waterways for repairs, road users have decried the attendant harrowing experiences they daily encounter and the need to construct more bridges in Lagos.
“Even before its closure, the bridge was noted for heavy traffic situations” said an exasperated road user in a statement. As Rem Koolhaas’ fascinating film Lagos Wide & Close describes, the city is choked in traffic and its economy has been severely limited by the lack of infrastructure investment since the construction of major highways in the 1970s.
The untold hardships experienced by road users since the commencement of the repair work is evident. Diversions to unfamiliar routes are factors that also contribute to the onerous situation. It was the need for more bridges realizing there were only few bridges that it behoved the Government of Ibrahim Babangida to award Julius Berger the contract to construct the third mainland bridge which was officially opened 1991.
Lagos state is the smallest state in Nigeria with an area of 356,861 hectares on land, yet it has the highest population of 17 million people which is over five per cent of the national estimate of 150 million. With a vehicular density of 224 vehicles per kilometer according to reports on the Lagos state Government website, driving through the traffic-clogged city of Lagos can be very exhausting and time consuming. Typically, It is not unusual to spend hours unend on Lagos roads and this is often characterised by street hawkers putting on sale all kinds of goods except ‘human head’’.
Of the three major bridges in Lagos viz the third mainland, Carter and Eko bridges , the third mainland bridge is the longest – connecting the Lagos Island to the mainland. The bridge which starts from Oworoshoki also connects the Oshodi-Apapa expressway and Lagos – Ibadan expressway and ends at the Adeniyi Adele interchange on the Lagos Island. There is also a link midway through the bridge that leads to Herbert Macaulay way at Yaba local government area.
Being the major bridge that connects the mainland to the Island and back, It is not sufficient to ease traffic flow as far as Lagos traffic is concerned. Road users are agitating for the construction of more bridges in Lagos especially ones that are parallel to the third mainland bridge so that a lasting solution is put to the unending pains commuters go through in the traffic-clogged metropolis.
Apparently, the life span of the few bridges we have is shortened by the heavy burdens they bear as a result of the volume of cars that ply the roads daily. This is a sufficient reason the government should consider constructing more bridges. Too much reliance is on the third mainland hence the need for regular repairs and maintenance. The Lagos State Government said plans to construct a fourth mainland bridge is underway – the onus is on government to equally construct a fifth mainland bridge that will be parallel to the dual carriage third mainland bridge in order to ease traffic flow and aid faster vehicular movement saving road users time, stress and fuel.
The benefits of constructing more bridges in Lagos cannot be overstressed especially with regards to the safety of human lives. Many have lost their lives to recklessness of hit and run drivers when crossing the roads which is why more pedestrian bridges should be constructed to curb these ugly incidences.
In addition, its significance to the development of a free-flowing and decongested Lagos traffic cannot be underestimated. A typical example is the Lekki – Ikoyi bridge that was constructed recently; allowing barely five minutes drive to Ikoyi from Lekki phase one. The contract was awarded to Julius Berger in 2009 to ease congestion on the Lekki / Ikoyi road. Also constructed were road works such as Bourdillon road , the roundabout at Admiralty and Alexander avenue respectively. As part of its many benefits, the construction of the bridge is to attract commercial tenants to the area. Rental rates which is 50 per cent lower than what obtains on the Victoria Island should also make Lekki more attractive. Lekki may soon turn to another Victoria Island especially as parking issues and traffic congestion is now taken care of.
In partial fulfillment of his electoral promises, Governor Babatunde Fashola in 2008 assured residents of Lagos of his administration’s plan to embark on the construction of a 4th Mainland Bridge which should gulp the sum of 160 Billion Naira or more. The 26-kilometre bridge is proposed to connect Ikorodu with the communities of Ajah and Lekki in a bid to lessen pressure on Lagos Island. The bridge will not only function as a means to distribute vehicular traffic more evenly and connect the new island to the mainland; it is to embrace and stimulate pedestrian life – the natural way of life in Lagos.
While there is free flowing vehicular movement on the bridge’s upper deck, the lower deck is to facilitate the inevitable hustle and bustle of Lagos in a more favorable environment. Characterized by the presence of markets, kiosks, shops, bars, and restaurants, there will be a generation of a new era of pedestrian convergence, which should promote economic growth, social life, culture and interaction.
The construction of the bridge which is delayed by unavailability of the environmental impact assessment report is to provide access from the hinterland to Victoria Island and hoped to reduce the unending traffic on the Third Mainland Bridge and other bridges connecting mainland with the Island.
The Governor of Lagos State in statement made to press among others issues delaying the project, inflation is chief. He however reiterated his commitment to fulfilling his promise before his tenure elapse.
All things being equal, the project is to commence from Langbasa in Lekki, Eti-Osa Local Government Area linking Victoria Island to Ipakodo, a Lagos suburb in the Ikorodu Local Government Area. While it cannot be disputed that Lagos bridges require regular maintenance, the alternative means of transport such as rail system, sea travel should also be encouraged to further decongest the roads. Reliance on Lagos flyovers should then be a thing of the past.