BARELY five days to the commencement of repair works on the Third Mainland Bridge, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, Monday, said the closure of the bridge would not be total afterall.
However, the Federal and Lagos State governments may be on collision course over which agency will spearhead traffic management that will result from the diversion during the four months period.
Lagos Third Mainland Bridge
Fashola who gave the clarification while speaking on the proposed rehabilitatioon of the longest bridge in the West African sub-region at the Lagos House, Alausa, shortly, after swearing-in the One-day Governor, Miss. Lilian Ogbuefi, explained that the repair work on the ever busy bridge would be to fix the expansion joints which are the metals joining segments of the bridge.
He said: "Contrary to what has been reported, it is not a complete closure but a partial one. While the work is on, diversion will take place depending on the section of the road that will be worked upon at the particular point by the contractor. While we commend the initiative of the Federal Government to embark on the repair, there is no need for any fear because we have done it before and at the time we did it, we all went through it. And today, we are better than where we were then."
Fashola who recalled that there was a similar repair work on the bridge few years ago without its being totally closed added: "at that time when we did it, we were constructing the same roads that will be used as diversion now and we are through with the roads."
Choice of date/alternative routes: On the choice of the date, he said: "the date was an agreement between the Federal and State governments that the period should be almost at the end of the school session and during children's vacation period so that the congestion on the road will be minimal. However, much of the work will be done when the pupils are on vacation. The target is that before the end of the year when the traffic is much, the repair works would have been completed. It is actually in the interest of the people."
The governor further stated that the responsibility of the residents is to make use of alternative routes to help reduce the quantum of vehicles on the road. Some of such alternative routes and means of transport are; making use of public transport by leaving personal vehicles at home and using water transportation among others.
Traffic management/control: On the issue of traffic management during the period, Fashola said: "it is unfortunate that Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, had gone to make the announcement about its being responsible for traffic control. If you look into the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in the exclusive legislative list, the only jurisdiction aportioned to the Federal Government as regards managing of traffic is on federal trunk roads and not roads within municipality of the various states. We cannot continue this desperate encroachment of territories. The constitution clearly set out roles for different tiers of government responsibility."
Encroachment: "Therefore, the responsibility of managing and maintaining the Third Mainland Bridge is for Federal Government, but maintaining a bridge and managing traffic on it are two different responsibilities. The traffic management on it belongs to the state. The bridge that crosses the lagoon within the territory of a city lies within the state's control for traffic. The trunk road by definition is a road that connects two states. Like the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. That is where the FRSC should be and not within the territory of the municipality of any state. The encroachment on responsibility, has led to misinformation on the repair works.
But when contacted, the new commander, Lagos State Sector Command, FRSC, Mr. Nseobong Akpabio, said since he was not there when the governor made the comment he would not react to it. According to him; "I was not there when he, the governor, said so, so I cannot comment. If I were to be there, I know what to tell him."
FRSC, Lagos sector statement: The Commander, Mr. Nseobong Akpabio, in statement yesterday, entitled: Federal Government to commence repair of the Third Mainland Bridge", maintained that the corps has the responsibility to direct traffic during the rehabilitation period. The statement reads: "The Federal Road Safety Corps, Lagos State Sector Command, wishes to inform the general public that work on repairs of the Third Mainland Bridge, Lagos will commence on Sunday, July 1, 2012. The repair work is expected to last till November 6, 2012.
"The Federal Road Safety Corps as the lead agency in traffic management in Nigeria will coordinate the various traffic agencies involved in the exercise. Appropriate traffic management measures aimed at improving the safety and flow of traffic, reducing traffic emissions and utilising traffic artery capacity more effectively will be in place throughout the duration. Officers and Marshals from all FRSC formations in the state will be deployed to strategic designated locations in conjunction with other security and safety personnel to form good synergy.
Adherence to road signs
"In view of this, the public is hereby informed that there will be diversions and delays during the period within the work area. Therefore, the FRSC advises motorists and residents to strictly adhere to road signs, traffic rules and regulations to avoid hitches. We assure that adequate arrangement has been put in place for a coordinated traffic information management which will be communicated from time to time via radio, television, newspapers and the social media during the period."
The repair which is in phases will affect traffic into Lagos from Ogudu and Oworonsoki expressway, also out of Lagos to same axis. However, the routes where there will be traffic restriction will be communicated to the public soon. The corps further advices that motorist should ensure adequate planning of their trip and utilise designated alternative routes to avoid undue delays.
Previous closures: The Third Mainland Bridge was shut last on Sunday, October 16, 2011 when there were reports that it was vibrating, indicating that it needed urgent attention. Remedial work was then carried out on the failed portions of the bridge. Before then there were rumours of cracks on the bridge. This, however, was vehemently denied by the authorities. However, it seems there is now a final determination to rectify the situation by closing the bridge for about four months.
It has always been known that the road has been in need of repair for a while, but that can not naturally cause us to shrug off the daunting fact that traffic in Lagos will be greatly affected, and workers will have to start getting up earlier than their usual. When the last repairs were carried out last year, stakeholders held a meeting on the proposed closure.
It was learnt that the Lagos State Government objected to the closure of the bridge during the meeting to map out ways to ease the traffic chaos that might arise thereafter. At that meeting it was said that state government officials told representatives of the Federal Government that the state lacked the resources and infrastructure to deal with the likely traffic crisis that might arise as a result of the planned closure of the bridge.