Work in progress: With the completion of the arch bridge next year, motorists from Jalan Raja Laut heading towards Jalan Kuching will enjoy a journey shortened by 850m for those heading towards Lebuhraya Mahameru and 1.4km for those heading towards the city centre. - Photo by Yap Chee Hong
TRAFFIC-choked streets are an everyday affair for Kuala Lumpur folk but the situation seems to be worsening with the ceaseless development in the nation's capital and the ever-increasing number of private vehicles on the road.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) is constantly implementing measures to ease the traffic congestion, including via numerous sizeable infrastructure projects.
The most immediate to be implemented are the arch bridge connecting Jalan Raja Laut and Jalan Dang Wangi to Jalan Kuching, and a new two-lane tunnel from Jalan Duta to Lebuhraya Mahameru. Both will be funded by DBKL.
However, there are traffic experts who are of the view that the two projects will not be effective in addressing the problem in the target areas.
Jalan Raja Laut/Jalan Dang Wangi-Jalan Kuching Bridge
DBKL is in the midst of constructing an arch bridge over Sungai Gombak to connect the Jalan Dang Wangi and Jalan Raja Laut junction to Jalan Kuching as well as a U-beam bridge as the connecting ramp to north-bound Jalan Kuching. The arch bridge will dedicate two lanes for cars, one motorcycle lane and two pedestrian walkways.
Construction of the RM32mil project started on July 18, 2013, and is expected to be completed in May next year.
At present, motorists in Jalan Raja Laut heading towards Jalan Kuching will have to go through Jalan Sultan Ismail. With the completion of the bridge, it will shorten the journey by 850m for those heading towards Lebuhraya Mahameru and 1.4km for those heading towards the city centre.
Some experts feel this is a flawed plan as the bridge will only channel traffic from one congested road to another.
A traffic engineer, who did not wish to be named, said Jalan Raja Laut and its surrounding areas would be congested during peak hours and so would Jalan Kuching.
A consultant says traffic congestion is also caused by vehicles from Lebuhraya Mahameru crossing over to the ramp heading towards Jalan Stesen Sentral.
"I cannot see how this bridge will ease the congestion by merely providing a shortcut to another congested road.
"Another potential problem is that traffic from Jalan Esfahan, which is only about 100m from the start of the bridge in Jalan Raja Laut, will have to cut across three lanes of flowing traffic in Jalan Raja Laut to get onto the bridge.
"Criss-crossing causes traffic to slow down. In my professional opinion, it is better to let the current traffic system remain," he said.
However, another traffic consultant disagreed, saying the bridge would help motorists bypass several congested spots including the Batu Road School at the end of the Jalan Raja Laut-Jalan Sultan Ismail junction.
"Roads with schools are prone to congestion because of vehicles waiting by the road side to drop off and pick up students during peak hours," he said.
New Jalan Duta-Lebuhraya Mahameru Tunnel
Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Phesal Talib announced that a two-lane tunnel would be built at the cost of RM40.67mil next to the existing tunnel to double its capacity, which was at maximum during peak periods.
The three traffic experts who spoke to StarMetro on condition of anonymity, do not think the new tunnel is a good idea as they foresee a similar criss-crossing traffic problem as with the Jalan Raja Laut bridge.
One consultant said the traffic congestion was mainly because of vehicles from Lebuhraya Mahameru crossing over to the ramp heading towards Jalan Stesen Sentral while vehicles from Jalan Duta cross to Jalan Damansara.
"With four lanes coming from Jalan Duta in future, and a distance of only about 350m between the tunnel exit and road divergent, the criss-crossing traffic will become worse and further slow down traffic," he said.
Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) Public Works and Drainage Depart-ment director Tan Keng Chok said the local authority had weighed all angles before approving the projects.
An artist's impression of the U-beam bridge.
"We approve a project because we are sure it will benefit the public in future.
Tan explained that the arch bridge project was important as Jalan Raja Laut was always congested and traffic flow was expected to increase because of new commercial development in the area.
"Current level of service at peak period is D, which is approaching unstable flow. This project is to cater for the increased traffic flow and to ease congestion at the Jalan Sultan Ismail-Jalan Raja Laut junction," he said.
Tan said a traffic study was carried out in 2007 to analyse current traffic condition, forecast future condition and devise mitigation measures.
"The report shows the number of cars exiting Jalan Raja Laut onto Jalan Kuching will be more than double by 2027.
"In 2007, there were 1,860 vehicles using Jalan Kuching and this figure will increase to 4,556 in 13 years' time.
"Implementation of the arch bridge and ramp bridge will generate significant traffic reduction, especially in Jalan Raja Laut and Jalan Sultan Ismail, more than 30% in the peak hours.
"The bridges will disperse traffic from the central business district to Jalan Kuching faster.
"As the traffic study shows that more traffic is north-bound on Jalan Kuching, especially during the evening peak period, the new bridge links will significantly reduce the congestion in Jalan Raja Laut and Jalan Sultan Ismail, and also the adjacent streets such as Jalan Dang Wangi and Jalan Esfahan," he added.
As for the Jalan Duta upgrading plans, Tan said the existing tunnel underpass was constructed in the 1990s and based on the site view, it it is no longer able to cater for the current high volume of vehicles.
He explained that the steep road gradient of Jalan Duta before entering Lebuhraya Mahameru was also one of the main reasons for the heavy traffic.
"The steep road gradient causes vehicles, especially heavy vehicles, to move slowly and this results in delay along Jalan Duta.
"There were also cases of lorries breaking down inside the tunnel or underpass, causing traffic jam along Jalan Duta for the whole day," he added.
Tan believes the new tunnel will solve the backed-up traffic on Jalan Duta heading towards the city centre.
"With the additional tunnel, it is a four-lane dispersal for traffic from the three-lane Jalan Duta.
"Proper signage will be erected to guide motorists towards the appropriate lanes.
"As such, a better traffic flow can be established to ensure smooth movement along Jalan Duta during peak hours," he concluded.
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