Phuket officials scramble to avoid Chalong underpass traffic mayhem

PHUKET: The Phuket Highways Office and consultancy experts are scrambling to find alternative routes for motorists to avoid serious congestion once construction of the Chalong underpass begins next year.

Slated to cost up to 800 million baht, construction of the underpass is expected to have a damning effect on traffic at the critical southern roundabout, Chalong Circle, said Samak Luedwonghad, director of the Phuket Highways Office.

“We are aware of how bad traffic there already is. It will surely become worse when construction begins,” he told the Phuket Gazette.

“The roads at the junction are narrow and serve a large volume of traffic – and it seems to only get worse. We have no choice but to come up with a plan to minimize the impact that the construction will have on motorists.”

At a meeting in July 2013, the governor at the time, Maitri Inthusut, rated Chalong Circle as the busiest junction in the south of the island.

The underpass will need to serve about 53,000 cars per day, accounting for about 60 per cent of all traffic in Muang District, he said (story here).

Mr Samak confirmed to the Gazette that his office will not create any new roads to alleviate traffic while the construction is underway. The project is expected to take more than two years.

The underpass is slated to cost up to 800 million baht. Photo: Kritsada Mueanhawong

“We have yet to decide what are the best options for alternative routes,” Mr Samak said. “Local people know the back roads and shortcuts, but we still have to look at these more closely to see if they are the best option, or even appropriate as alternative routes,” he said.

“We have no plans to build new roads, but we will look into improving the connections between Chao Fa East and Chao Fa West Road.”

Construction of the two-way, one-kilometer-long underpass that joins Chao Fa West Road and Wiset Road (story here), is expected to begin in 2016, Mr Samak explained.

“We are still waiting for the project to be approved. It is now under consideration by the Department of Highways,” he said.

“However, Governor Nisit Jansomwong on Friday promised to follow up on the project and do his best to get the budget approved so that the project can begin in 2016.”

The project passed its final public hearing in August, when Paisarn Suwannarak, a specialist engineer from the Department of Highways, revealed that the underpass would feature four-meter-wide lanes divided by a 0.5-meter median, with road studs and flexible poles.

The tunnel itself – 10.5 meters wide and no less than five meters high – will be 300 meters long. However, the one-kilometer route will start in front of Muang Phuket School on Wiset Road and end near Home Pro Village on Chao Fa West Road, said Mr Paisarn (story here).

Footpaths will be provided on each side of the underpass. Ventilation, drain systems, lights, fire-safety equipment and traffic signs would also be installed, he said

— Chutharat Plerin

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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