Proposals to enhance the benefits of road sector development in Sri Lanka

1 March 2014 09:21 am - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Give way please!

As all are aware, huge investments have been made and further investments have already been planned to improve the highways of Sri Lanka.
In the past, travelling from my home in Kandy to Matara, to see my parents, took more than eight hours. But after the completion of the Galle – Matara highway section in February 2014, I would be able to visit my sister’s home in Matara in 4.5 hours (Kandy, Pasyala, Hanwella, Kottawa, Galle, Matara through  the Southern Highway).
This is a great achievement. Hats off to the Road Development Authority (RDA) and the Ministry of Highways, Ports and Shipping.
Now, I am using the Katunayake Expressway to come to Katugastota via Peliyagoda, Jaela, Minuwangoda, Giriulla, Narammala, Kurunegala and Mawathagama.
It only takes 2 hrs and 20 minutes to arrive at Katugastota from Peliyagoda (Jaela – Minuwangoda road to be improved to get maximum benefits).
 Already two highways namely Southern Expressway (E01) (up to Galle) and Katunayake Expressway (E03), have been completed.
In addition to that, road rehabilitation expansion projects have been done.
1. Peradeniya – Gannoruwa Bridge
2. Kadawatha – Kelani Bridge new four lane motor ways
3.    Maharagama, Kottawa and Homagama roads are partially completed.
 These are some of the roads which are being used regularly by me.
I, as an engineer, appreciate the efforts of the Road Authorities and would like to suggest the following suggestions for the benefit of road users (I am proposing this as a citizen of Sri Lanka with positive intention.)

Road Sign Boards in 04 Lane Roads (Other than Toll ways)

Drivers are to be advised to drive on the left lane and to use the right lane only when it is required to overtake another vehicle.
 Have you seen such sign boards other than those put up along the two Toll Highways?
How much does it cost? Compare the investment of constructing four lane highways and the cost of putting up sign boards along them.
Drivers should be educated to follow road signs in order to get the maximum benefit from such road projects.

Junctions on Sri Lankan roads

Junctions or intersections need to be improved. I appreciate the efforts of the RDA to improve/develop the Imbulgoda junction and the Nittambuwa junction on A1 (Kandy – Colombo).
 Proper road sign boards are required to guide the motorists .
Ex:  1. Lanes to be marked with the destination (some locations in Colombo city, it is indicated).
 Traffic lights are to be introduced depending on the traffic volume and traffic directions and they should be updated to meet the demand. Surveys are to be done and telephone number to be given to the public to get feedback.
Traffic police needs to be trained to use appropriate options. Options are to be developed based on actual situations. Road users feed back would be beneficial.
 There are more junctions to be improved along the Kandy – Colombo Road. As an example, it is required to give priority for junctions (Intersections).
I have taken a few examples to explain my suggestions.
Ex: 1. A1 at Balummahara Junction at 27 km
2. A1 at Pasyala Junction at 45 km
3. A1 at Warakapola, where the bypass road originates from Kandy - Colombo direction on left.
Promote the use of the completed Warakapola bypass.
The bypass has been completed about 10 -15 years ago. At least advise drivers of vehicles who are going from Kandy to Colombo to use this bypass road. But this particular junction needs to be improved.
Direction boards are to be fixed in order to promote the use of bypass roads on the A1, especially for vehicles which are coming from Kandy.

Kegalle bypass

It is an excellent output of Sri Lankan engineers.
Tribute to the RDA, and Maga contractors. I am happy, if we could install road sign boards at the entrance and the exit displaying the length of by-pass and chainage of exit, so that the driver can understand the benefits.

Bus stops

Bus stops have not been properly designed may be due to land constraints. In some locations, allocated space is not sufficient for two buses.
An approach lane to the bus stop is to be constructed wherever possible to induce bus drivers to use bus stops so as to minimise the inconvenience to other road users. At least make improvements, where lands are available. Carryout a national level campaign to obtain the willingness to release the land for bus stops.
Educate bus drivers through media to use bus stops in order to avoid interruption of the movements of other vehicles (Especially when two lanes are available on the A1 Road).

My Suggestions to give more benefits to road users with less investment.

1. Introduce sign boards including
practical speed limits.
2. Promote the objectives of road sign boards and speed limits.
At present, we have two speed limits. Authorities have identified urban city limits as the boundaries. In some areas the urban city boundary expands to less densely populated areas and some road sections are almost straight, less interruption for traffic flow, hence, no disturbances to vehicle movement. In those areas, speed limits could be adjusted.

Speed Limitation – Rural areas in the Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and the Ampara Districts

 In some straight roads, movement of other vehicles can be seen very clearly, hardly any intersections are present. Mostly there are paddy fields or jungles by the side of the roads but maximum speed is limited to 50 km/h as this is within city limits.
Ex: Maradankadawala in Dambulla – Anuradhapuara (A9) road.
Natural tendencies are to drive very fast even up to 72 km/h where it is possible.
Why are we not allowing drivers to drive at a reasonable speed where it is possible? Why do we develop, improve our road network? Is it not for public convenience?
Speed limit should be introduced considering the following (If you could refer a text book or RDA manual, you could add some more):
1. Safety
2. Minimise risk factors
3. Visibility
4. Curvature of the roads etc.
Road Engineers should get involved in the demarcation of speed limits, and their applicable boundaries, not the Police, Registrar of Motor Vehicles (RMV) or Department of Motor Traffic or the Transport Commissions.
Road Engineers may obtain their views, but it is a responsibility of the RDA.
Road Engineers have better experience on the demarcation of speed limits. Especially, speed limits are to be displayed at each junction to notify drivers who are coming from byroads.

"One of the main causes of accidents is dangerous overtaking, the reason being that most of the drivers have a habit of not allowing other vehicles to overtake their vehicles."

At the moment only two sign boards are fixed at the beginning and the end, and they are not visible due to advertisements, buildings, small flower plants and bushes. Most of the times the sign boards are too small to draw the attention of the drivers.
Innovative designs need to be developed for cost effective sign boards. (Surrounding environment of the roads is not up to international standards. Therefore, our road sign boards are to be designed considering the obstructions in the surrounding environment and visibility to road users).
 3. Speed limits are also to be changed depending on the following factors.
1. Narrow winding slopes
2. Steep slopes
3. Narrowness of the road. Lane widths that are not sufficient for two vehicles to pass each other
Ex: In newly carpeted internal roads in Kandy City even 50 km/h is not possible, but it is allowed. In those areas, speed limits are to be defined to suit the need of the community considering safety of passengers, drivers and road users.
Then only will road users adhere to follow the speed limit, as they feel that there are some logical justifications for it.

Over taking lanes

Different vehicles run at varying speeds, especially heavy vehicles like lorries, container trailers, bowsers can’t drive even at 20 km/h on hill climbs along Kandy –Colombo Road (Kegalle, Mawanella area) causing obstructions to other motorists due to the lack of overtaking lanes.
Carry out a campaign through electronic media, print media and school curriculum (National Institute of Education (NIE) is waiting to get new ideas, thoughts in their revised curriculum) to get the willingness to give land for the construction of overtaking lanes, minimise public objections, promote to give the land for Government Valuer’s evaluation.
Market the advantages of having overtaking lanes
Introduce one or two overtaking lanes to establish the benefits of user friendly highways with overtaking lanes with attractive sign boards for road users.
Carryout campaigns through school children (O/L, A/L), University students.
Email campaign to public officials and all professional organisations on benefits of overtaking lanes, and get their fullest cooperation.

Prevention of illegal constructions of structures, houses, shops, boutiques in shoulders or reservation of main roads

Educate the general public on the following aspects.
Illegal construction will hamper the expansion of roads due to lack of capital to pay compensation for the removal of such illegal structures. All these expenditures are coming from the national budget. Tax payers are paying for the illegal structures, construction activities. Educate school children, University students and public servants on the effects of illegal constructions on society.
Establish call centers to identify illegal constructions similar to 119.
Road boundary limits are to be shown to the public
Introduce display boards giving road reservation boundary or width of the road (including reservation, so that the public could identify the encroached area.
Educate the public to notify illegal structures on road pavements, hard shoulders and road reservation.
Advise the general public to not to buy goods and services from shops which are being built within the road reservations.
Involve 51,000 graduates who are working in public sector as development officers to identify such locations and develop a database and publish it. So that, decision makers will pay attention.
The local authority or the Urban Development Authority alone cannot do this. People should be educated and they should encourage to lodge complaints and demonstrate their rights.
Advise professional institutions such as the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL), Institute of Architectures and Institute of Town Planners to carry out campaigns among their members against such constructions.
Brief media personnel on the effects of illegal constructions and promote constructions of overtaking lanes, junctions, improvements and about effective road sign boards.
Investments on roads should be published in newspapers and the road itself.
Carryout surveys, studies on the benefits of the road rehabilitation works.

Road Disciplines

One of the main causes of accidents is dangerous overtaking, the reason being that most of the drivers have a habit of not allowing other vehicles to overtake his vehicle.
“Give way to others” to be promoted to get the maximum benefits to the people by minimising the accidents and increase the average speed of vehicle, safety of passengers, road users.

How do we implement this?

1. Promote “Give way to others” concept through
a. School Children – above grade 09
b. 70,000 university students
c. Students of Technical Colleges
d. 50,000 graduates in Divisional Secretary offices and Ministries
e. Email campaign to all professional organizations in Sri Lanka, public officials, private sector and established companies.
f. Educate 225 Members of Parliament, all Local Authority members and their Chairmen, Mayors, Provincial Council members. Just print an attractive leaflet with photos and post them to all.
g. Invite NGOs (Lions Clubs, Rotary Clubs), Professional organisations to carryout campaign for “Give way to others”.
 Introduce a day for “ROAD SAFETY AND EFFECTIVE USE OF NATIONAL ROAD NETWORK” with proper sign boards, overtaking lanes, proper junctions, user friendly atmosphere and improved driver disciplines.

"Illegal construction will hamper the expansion of roads due to lack of capital to pay compensation for the removal of such illegal structures. All these expenditures are coming from the national budget"

 I have given my thoughts as a road user, driver, engineer and citizen of Sri Lanka with positive intention to “Promote the benefits of road sector investment “to all decision makers and other road users and the general public as well.
My humble request is
a. Create awareness among decision makers, political authorities, and officials of the Treasury, National Transport Commission, Ministry of Highways, Ports and Shipping, Ministry of Transport and RDA.
b. Interview key personnel who are involved in decision making of transport and roads such as;
  • The Director General of the RDA
  • The Director General of the Department of National Planning and Assistant Director in charge of road sector.
  • Members of the National Transport Commission
  • Commissioner General of the Department of Motor Traffic and officials who are involved in drivers’ discipline, issuing of Driving Licences and regulatory measures related to speed limits etc.
c. Key professional organisations such as the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL), Sri Lanka Institute of Architects, Town and Country Planners and the Bar Association.
d. A campaign among active members of our civil society to promote “Give  way to others” (It’s a change of attitude, may be a difficult task).
e. Campaigns could be carried out on;
  • “Give way to others”
  •  “Speed Limits, to meet the objective”
  •  “Need for overtaking lanes”
  •  “Minimize illegal constructions on road sides”
  •  “Improve road junctions, intersections”
  •  “Effective road sign boards”
  •  “Willingness to give land at reasonable prices for road expansion”
  •  “Be a disciplined driver and let others too survive in this country”

  Comments - 1

  • Dhammika Saturday, 01 March 2014 12:00 PM

    Very practical and prudent set of proposals. Hope his comments will be noted and acted upon to get the full benifits of the improved highways in the country

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