PHUKET: Department of Highways officials received a frosty reception today at a public hearing to unveil three base designs for an overpass at Bang Khu Intersection, one of the main traffic crunch points during peak hours on Phuket’s Thepkrasattri Road.
The Bang Khu Intersection is where Thepkrasattri Rd meets the bypass road.
Sombat Jaroenpat, director of the Survey and Design Office at the Department of Highways headquarters in Bangkok, explained to the meeting at Phuket Provincial Hall that the designs were drawn up after a sample survey of residents in the area.
“There is heavy traffic at the Bang Khu Intersection, especially in the morning and evening. It is necessary to start taking steps to prepare for future demands of traffic there,” said Mr Sombat.
However, that did not stop a slew of prominent local figures from questioning the fundamental reasons for building a flyover at the junction at all.
“I think the three designs will not help solve the problems of traffic jams at the intersection. The real problem is the traffic lights at Koh Kaew,” said Kuakiat Jitkua, president of the Koh Kaew Tambon Administration Organization (OrBorTor)..
Bhurit Maswongsa, a vice president of the Phuket Tourist Association (PTA), agreed that solving the traffic jam problem at the junction would take more than targeting just one intersection.
“The whole [traffic] system needs to be revised. There are traffic jams on Thepkrasattri Road because it is the only route from the airport to town. It is the core of the problem. Why don’t we use the money for building an overpass to make another route instead?” he asked.
Khasame Srivaranan, the Engineer for Survey and Design at the Department of Highways, stuck to his guns.
“Right now we are focusing on solving the traffic problem at Bang Khu Intersection only, and this is just the survey and design stage,” he said.
“Making a new route would be the responsibility of the Department of Highways Planning Office to analyze and plan the whole system. It is a different issue,” he added.
Sarayuth Mallam, also a vice president of the PTA, criticized the idea of an overpass for obstructing Phuket’s “beautiful scenery”.
Mr Sarayuth also called into question the problem of having an overpass and a monorail passing through the same junction.
Kanok Khemnark, an environmental specialist from Enrich Consultants Co Ltd, replied that any plans drawn up for an overpass will allow space for any monorail built to pass through.
The representatives from Epsilon Co Ltd, Consultant of Technology Co Ltd, and T.P.F.C International Co Ltd – the three consultancy firms tasked with presenting the three designs today – were also asked why an underpass was not presented as an option.
“The physical characteristics of the area make it unsuitable for an underpass. The area is a collection point for water heading to the sea. If we built an underpass it would obstruct the water flow and there would be problems with flooding,” explained project manager Kaweerat Deeprasertwong.
However, after hearing several people voice their support for the idea, Mr Kaweerat said that he would include plans for an underpass at the next public meeting, slated to be held in September.
“We will take opinions expressed in the meeting today to analyze and select suitable overpass designs by considering the required engineering, environment, budget and traffic aspects,” Mr Khasame said.
It was very likely that more design options, in addition to the three presented today, will be presented at the next public hearing, he added.
“These three initial designs [presented today] are just engineering examples of overpasses already built at T-junctions elsewhere. We have yet to consider the construction budget required. This is still at a very early stage,” he said.
— Janpen Upatising
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