Commuters on Ravi Road continue to suffer clogged roads and long traffic jams as the Azadi Chowk Interchange project, which has been completed, continues to await inauguration.
Construction of the Azadi Chowk Interchange and New Circular Road began on January 15 with a deadline of four months. Ravi Road was blocked from The Mall and Ravi Bridge for this purpose.
Well placed officials of Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency (TEPA), speaking on condition of anonymity, said the flyover roundabout and the circular road were complete and ready for traffic. They said only finishing touches remained which could easily be carried out after opening the road for traffic.
The officials said that the agency was only awaiting the provincial government’s approval. Earlier, it was rumoured that Tuesday (today) would be the date of the project’s inauguration, but that turned out to be false. The date of inauguration has reportedly been moved ahead by a few days.
The project includes an elevated roundabout built at a cost of Rs4 billion. The roundabout will have three up-ramps and three down-ramps; two up-ramps and two down-ramps on Ravi Road; and one up-ramp and a down-ramp on Ahmad Ali Road. Rs2.8 billion was spent on constructing the project and the rest on shifting services and land acquisition.
Construction of the New Circular Road was clubbed with the project. The 1.6-kilometer road stretches from Ahmad Ali Road, from the side of Iqbal Park to Lorry Adda. After construction was completed, the road was blocked by barriers so that it remained closed for traffic until it was formally inaugurated.
Traffic on Ravi Road has been diverted to streets on both sides of the road, where no diversion signs have been placed. Traffic entering Lahore from Ravi Road has to travel to Badami Bagh where it returns to Ravi Road via Lorry Adda. Similarly, traffic coming from Data Darbar is diverted to Kareem Park.
Haseeb Ali, a resident of Kareem Park, who works at a bank in Gulberg, said he had to travel long distances because of the blocked roads. He said he and his friends went to see the bridge three days ago. He said it was indeed a feat of architectural genius but it was surprising that it had not been opened for traffic despite being complete. The same was the case with the New Circular Road. “If these roads are for the people to use and appreciate, the government shouldn’t delay their use for the sake of political point-scoring.”
Muhammad Zahid, a resident of Shahdara, who runs a transport service said he had to travel an additional four kilometres to reach The Mall Road because of the traffic blockage. He said the construction of the project was visibly complete but for some reason was not open for traffic.
TEPA Chief Engineer Saifur Rehman told The Express Tribune that the Azadi Chowk project would be inaugurated soon. He said there was some minor work left but the rest of the project had been completed. Asked why it had not been opened for traffic, he said they were putting the finishing touches and did not want to create any hindrance for traffic once the project opened.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 1st, 2014.