Thursday, August 20, 2009

Road works add to Makkah’s traffic woes

Hamid Al-Sulami

MAKKAH: With the number of visitors to Makkah likely to see a huge increase during Ramadan, unfinished and ongoing road construction will add to the traffic problems that already exist in the holy city.

Work on some of the city’s arterial roads has forced the authorities to divert traffic, leading to a crush of vehicles not only at peak times but nearly around the clock.

The seasonal rush, in addition, will not only increase vehicular traffic but also the number of pedestrians on roads thereby leaving the authorities with a logistical nightmare.

The construction work is not only impacting traffic but also businesses, which generally wait all year for the Ramadan and Haj seasons in which they make the bulk of their sales.

Some businesses are already suffering be-cause of the ongoing projects. Trenches and diversions as well as construction material on the side of the roads are proving to be stumbling blocks for customers and businesses alike. Negotiating paths to these stores is difficult, something that puts off prospective customers. Store entrances are some times blocked by construction materials for these projects.

Business owners — who are hoping to make money after a lean period during the summer — say the projects are driving away customers and are calling for the municipality to complete the work at the earliest.

Despite construction companies repeatedly promising to finish the projects on time and before the summer vacation and Ramadan, the end is nowhere in sight. The fact that these companies are not accountable allows them to set their own schedule. There is also no supervision from the municipality. That is why many of these businessmen have called for an imposition of deterrents on construction companies — like hefty fines, punishment or both.

One example of the woes Makkah people face can be seen on the Al-Haj Street, which is under constant construction, something that has forced people to take different routes, leave earlier for their daily chores and plow through additional traffic.

Suleiman Fehaid, a Makkah resident, said there is much roadwork going on in and around the city. “It is frustrating for residents to be forced to use other roads just to get home. These roads should be ready for use because many pilgrims will be arriving and it will be a disaster if these roads remain closed, or dug up,” he said. Another resident, Mansour Al-Otaibi, said Makkah’s people are used to congested traffic. He said what is not acceptable is the delay in completing the road projects.

“On the ring road leading to Al-Awali, there is some construction work in the middle of the road. This is causing huge traffic jams,” said Al-Otaibi, adding that if this is the case now then what will be the situation when numbers swell during Ramadan.

“Road maintenance is important but what is more important is for companies to stick to deadlines and finish projects on time. Most of these projects started in the summer. The authorities must know the time frame for each project. If the project is going to take a long time, then why did they not begin them early to finish before the Ramadan rush,” he said.

Source : Arab News

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