Opinion: New highways chief talks improvement plans

PHUKET: Patiwetwottisak Sookhii, originally from Nonthaburi, is the new director of the Phuket Highways Office. He assumed his position last month and was director of the Prachuap Khiri Khan Highways Office before that. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Prince of Songkla University and a Master’s degree in transport from Kasetsart University.

Here, he talks about the plans for improving Phuket transport during his term in office.

My main target as the new director of the Phuket Highways Office is to finish all the ongoing construction as soon as possible, ease the traffic flow at construction sites as much as we can, push several new projects and, most importantly, boost road safety.

The job of the highways department is not only to build roads, but more importantly, provide services after the roads are built. Traffic convenience and road safety are thus crucial aspects of our job. That is the real purpose of building roads.

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Phuket is a fast developing province, which makes our job a lot more challenging. The busier it gets, the more work is needed to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

We have to keep multiple, complicated factors in mind, including land price, effect on local citizens and ensuring that daily life is impacted as little as possible.

We are not only dealing with the roads, but with people too. Caring about how construction work affects locals is our main task. Another important aim of ours is to start fixing unsafe roads to help reduce traffic accidents.

However, in order to improve road safety, the highways department cannot work alone. We need the help and cooperation of the local authorities. What we can do is fix and maintain unsafe roads, unclear or damaged traffic signs and lights, and bring everything up to date in order to avoid accidents.

The traffic police and municipality have to help us achieve that goal. At the moment, we are cooperating with local authorities to fix several spots that were damaged by heavy rain. We will continue to gradually fix all these problems.

I request anyone who finds any roads to be unsafe or any traffic signs to be unclear or damaged, please take a picture and file a complaint with the Phuket Highways Office and we will do our best to fix it as soon as possible. We respect and appreciate all complaints and tips.

As far as the Samkong Underpass is concerned, we will consider it as a learning experience and be more careful from now on. We are working very hard and it is more than 80 percent complete. We are focusing on the road condition, signs, traffic lights and so on, and expect to be done soon, despite the recent heavy rains, which act as an obstacle.

At this stage, all we can do is finish ongoing projects and plan more carefully before starting any new ones, several of which are in the pipeline at present.

We plan to build a new road from Baan Sakoo (Phuket International Airport) to Outlet Mall (Bypass Road in Koh Kaew). Currently, we are in the observation and studying stage. The expected budget is about 12 billion baht, but it will take some time to kick off.

There are also two flyovers in the pipeline, both of which have already passed through the public hearing phase. They are expected to start in the next several months, and are currently under review by the ministry.

Another upcoming project is an airport underpass at the T-junction on Thepkrasattri Road. We will construct the underpass on the main road, so those heading northbound to Phang Nga just have to go straight underground. The project is currently under review by the the cabinet and awaiting their decision.

We expect that when all these projects are finished, Phuket traffic will get better in the near future, about five years. However, we will never stop improving as Phuket never stops developing.

— Kongleaphy Keam


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