If you could take a subway from the suburbs in Boston, where I live, to downtown in 10 minutes, that improves your life over sitting in a traffic jam
- Noam Chomsky
What the skyline of Buthgamuwa road offers to viewers these days is only second to Colombo 1 in terms of the number of high rising buildings. This otherwise laid back largely neglected neighbourhood of Kotte no doubt is fast becoming the New York of Sri Lanka with the mushrooming of apartment complexes along the meandering Diyawanna lake.
The government decision to release Buthgamuwa land to real estate companies has seen an unlimited number of construction related vehicles including containers and cement mixing machines running down the narrow two lane road of Buthgamuwa. The traffic flow is often stopped by the workers whenever these huge vehicles carrying construction hardware enter the sites. The latest to add to the number of sites is a Sri Lanka-China joint venture with 242 apartments which has already given the area a mini-Beijing look with the high Chinese presence.
This unfolding phenomenon has seen the land value of the otherwise run down Buthgamuwa reaching dizzy heights. However, it looks as if the authorities have overlooked one of the most critical factors in development – roads, when releasing the land to real estate companies thus introducing an unexpected influx of population to the area.
The two-lane Buthgamuwa road, which has only one track for Colombo-bound traffic, reports the worst traffic snarls in Colombo suburbs as of now. Some days it takes nearly 30 minutes to travel even the last leg of two km before it joins Colombo-bound Kotte traffic. The Rajagiriya flyover no doubt has benefited the Kotte residents. However what the authorities have overlooked was that with the opening of the flyover, the number of entry points to Kotte road for the Colombo-bound Buthgamuwa motorists have been reduced to one. Until then they enjoyed two entry points - one next to the filling station at Rajagiriya and the other from Buthgamuwa crossroad at the HSBC Junction in Kotte. Both these have now been scrapped and the only entry point the Colombo-bound motorist has today is the one under the flyover.
No doubt the present traffic system at Rajagiriya Junction is methodical however, it has been created at the cost of the peace of mind and traffic time of the Buthgamuwa motorist. The reduction of entry points has come at a time when the completed apartment complexes are being released to the use of buyers and more high-rise buildings under construction.
Widening of the road giving at least two lanes for the Colombo-bound traffic appears to be a solution. However another and perhaps the more logical option could be to link Perera Mawatha near the bridge to Rajagiriya at a point passing the flyover junction.
In fact constructing a road linking Buthgamuwa and Cotta Road would have been a better logical idea than the Peliyagoda-Rajagiriya phase of the new flyover that the government is currently working on. After all Buthgamuwa Road is taken by motorists from Kohilawatte, Kotikawatte, Gothatuwa (IDH), Kalapaluwawa, Himbutana and Angoda all densely populated areas with tens of thousands of vehicles already plying down the roads and thousands more to join with the completion of the rest of the apartment complexes.
However, the best solution for traffic snarls in Colombo suburbs, not only for Buthgamuwa but for all other areas, would be a sophisticated rail system covering all the suburban areas of Colombo city so that as in Japan the middle class would swap their cars for trains. These should be connected with shuttle bus services to office areas.
Till this becomes a reality, the government should offer an interim solution to Buthgamuwa motorists without delay.