– The Sun News

Early-morning gridlock on Third Mainland Bridge worries motorists

•Lagos residents want govt to build layby after bridge

Cosmas Omegoh

Motorists plying the Third Mainland Bridge want the Lagos State government to address the early-morning traffic congestion that has for long been a common feature on the facility.

The gridlock, which at its worst times begins from the Oworonshoki end of the bridge, sometimes stretches as far as Lagos Island.

At the terminal point of the gridlock, nothing significantly can be identified as its causative factor. But some people believe that the situation is caused by motorists turning either into Ebute Metta or Adeniji Adele Street on the Island. As they slow down, they force other motorists behind them to slow down, too. Within a short while, traffic begins to build.

The Third Mainland Bridge is always in the news. When the bridge is not vibrating, drawing expert attention,  hoodlums are on it, robbing bewildered motorists blind. When, from time to time, someone is not plunging from its height straight into the lagoon, a vehicle is somersaulting off it and falling deep into the water below.

Not too long ago, the Lagos State Emergency Management Authority (LASEMA) organised a simulated emergency rescue operation on the bridge. LASEMA operators were out there to test their latest technology.

It was an exercise that took many who passed that way unawares. Most motorists were stuck while the exercise progressed, with some grilling in the midday heat for the better part of the day.
Besides the test exercise, every regular on the Third Mainland Bridge may have testimonies of the perennial mid-morning traffic congestion to tell. Although the traffic situation does not totally keep motorists stranded, it, all the same, impedes their movement. It increases travel time sometimes by as much as two hours, leaving many going on the 11.8km bridge racing behind time.

Sometime ago, ago, the reporter went to feel the traffic condition on the bridge.

From Oshodi, en route Obalende, the drive was smooth, traffic was light. But things began to change when the passenger bus began to slow down at Oworonshoki Bus Stop at 8:30 am. The morning gridlock had started. Those who were not used to it did not know what was happening. Initially, the suspicion was that a vehicle had broken down somewhere on the bridge or that there was a minor accident. Many thought those whose vehicles were involved in the presumed accident had started to shout at each other, unfazed at the feeling of other motorists. But that was not the case.

A few years ago, commuters returning from the Island every evening suffered gravely on the alternate portion of the dual carriageway. Even now, things have not completely changed. Harrowing hours are still being spent on the bridge, although not in the same manner as years ago. Then, robbers had a field day dealing with helpless commuters. But the Governor Akinwunmi Ambode administration has since rallied to construct a layby, where motorists could drop off their passengers. That alone has eased the gruelling traffic situation on the bridge considerably. But the gridlock on the side inward the Island persists.

On this occasion, motorists had formed four lanes on the bridge; but everyone was moving at a snail’s speed. Intermittently, the movement was halted. Broken down vehicles further impeded the worsening situation.

The situation stayed that way until the cars on the four lanes snaked their way to the Ebute Metta Bridge from where some vehicles veered off. Even from that point, their exit did not mean much. The movement continued to be slow, as more vehicles veered off into the streets leading into Lagos Island, thereby allowing other vehicles proceeding to Obalende and other areas to increase their pace. That was how a journey from the Oworonshoki end of the bridge to Obalende, which averagely lasts for 10 minutes, lasted for 50 minutes.

Secretary, National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Obalende sub-unit, Kezeen Adekunle, aka Puncher, had attributed the perennial gridlock to the diversion inward Lagos Island.
“Motorists turning to Adeniji Adele are the cause of the problem,” he said. “About that time every morning, there are more vehicles coming into the Island. As they slow down to allow them to branch off, other vehicles behind them are also forced to slow down. In no time, a long queue has formed; more vehicles pile up behind them and that is why you can see the traffic extending as far as Oworonshoki.”

He admitted that the problem could be worsened if there was a breakdown of vehicles or even an accident.

He called on motorists, especially commercial bus drivers coming into Lagos Island, to always keep to their right to avoid switching lanes, a conduct he warned was capable of adding to the problem many experience on the bridge everyday.

A civil servant, Lukmon Odebiyi, who works in Ikoyi, told the correspondent that the traffic congestion on the Third Mainland Bridge occurs daily.

“This is what we experience everyday,” he said. “Sometimes the experience can be frustrating. Imagine spending between 30 and 50 minutes on a journey that should ordinarily take 10 minutes. Sometimes you may have a major assignment on the Island and you are held up. You simply sit inside the vehicle seething with anger.”

He, however, said that many who were used to the situation always left their homes early enough to escape the problem. He also counselled everyone who might not be aware of such problem to always factor that into their travel time to avoid any form of frustration.

A commercial bus driver, Monday Chikezie, who shuttles between Oshodi and Obalende, admitted that the traffic congestion on the Third Mainland bridge every morning was one huge challenge every motorist has had to deal with over the years.

“It begins to build up every morning at about 6 am. The queue keeps lengthening as more and more vehicles get on the bridge.

“You know that about that time, most workers travelling from other parts of the mainland are on their way to work. Traders too are going to their shops for the early-morning sales. So, most people are on the road about that time.

“The situation reaches its peak about 8-9am. About 10 am, it begins to ebb. Just before noon, everything about it is forgotten. If you are passing through at that time, you might not know that such a horrible traffic challenge ever occurred.”

A man who spoke anonymously lamented that many Lagos residents had to be on the bridge at the same time because Nigeria has fixed working hours, coupled with the fact that there are limited means of transport available to the residents.

“In places like the United States and the United Kingdom, many people have staggered working hours. Some work between six am and noon, some between noon and 7 pm while some work at night. So, many people are not on the road all at the same time.
“The situation is made worse because there are no trains or ferries to convey people from somewhere on the mainland to the Island. That is why everyone is on the bridge almost at the same time.”

In the light of this, some Lagos residents have called on the state and the Federal government to come up with ideas to ameliorate the pain motorists and commuters go through on the bridge.
“We want Governor Ambode to do something about this situation,” Odebiyi said. “We saw how his administration constructed a park and layby at Oworonshoki to ease congestion on the other side of the bridge which occurs always after work hours. Perhaps something similar can be done to ease this situation.”

In like manner, Chikezie, who plies the bridge regularly, wants the Lagos State government to find a solution to the problem. He said: “Any solution that will cut down on the hours we waste on that bridge everyday is welcome. Time is money, as the saying goes. If the time wasted on the Third Mainland Bridge everyday is converted to money, a lot of us will be far richer than we are at the moment. Surely, we the commercial bus drivers will be making much more money than we make at the moment.”

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