22 July 2014

Liberia: Highway to Grave? Lack of Diversion Signs On Monrovia-Ganta Highway

Gbartala — Commuters that ply the very busy Monrovia-Ganta highway have become endangered due to the high rate of accidents on the road that serves Bong, Margibi, Nimba and Grand Gedeh routes from the capital. The accident prone highway has now become a source of concern to road users.

Before the contract for the construction of the road was awarded and work commenced two years ago, part of the route was dreaded especially during the peak hours due to heavy traffic. Commuters sometimes spend as much as five hours on a journey that would otherwise take three hours. The award of the contract therefore came as a respite to many.

However, the road, which has achieved over 40 percent completion, according to CICO engineers, has become a death trap of some sort. Instead of going at snail speed as it was in the past, commuters hurry along the completed portions of the road at break-neck speed. This is believed to be the major cause of the road accidents that now occur on a daily basis, with several deaths recorded. Investigations conducted by FrontPageAfrica, however, revealed that the majority of the accidents occur on the spots where the diversions are made by the construction companies. While these diversions are necessary for the progress of the job, adequate road signs are usually not given and this leads to most of the accidents that have maimed many and damaged vehicles. According to Mr. John Dicks, a civil servant that plies the route on a daily basis, the situation worsens at night because drivers barely see the diversions from afar. "I will say that the construction companies handling the road are not safety conscious, and they should be blamed for what is happening now," he said, adding that "diversions are supposed to be done in such a way that it will not endanger the lives of road users."

But on the contrary, Xing Cins of CICO, a civil engineer, blamed the accidents on the poor driving skills of road users. He said most car owners "do not spend enough time to perfect their driving skills before venturing on the road. Because of their limited skill in driving and little knowledge of driving rules and road signs, they overtake recklessly, putting themselves and other road users in danger."

In his reaction, Mr. Daniel Saylay, Human Resource Director of CICO, which is one of the construction companies handling the project, also blamed the accidents on the road users, saying there is always a danger sign to indicate diversions. In addition, he said that during construction, men of the company assist in directing motorists especially on diversions.

But it appears the company is prepared to address the situation as it is believed that the road would experience more reckless driving upon completion. Although Saylay was not around when FrontPageAfrica visited parts of the road that don't have diversions signs, a senior officer in the public relations unit, who would not want his name in print, said the corps was poised to handle the imminent challenges.

"We are aware that road crashes could increase after the road is completed. We are going to curtail it; we are planning to increase our presence on that road, which we believe will caution motorists as they drive along the road. Already we have two units along the road, one at Gbartala and the other at Totota, and we will increase our presence when the road is completed," the officer said.

He stated further that there has always been road signs alerting motorists of diversions and that the command has also stationed ambulance services along the highway to ensure quick response to casualties in case of any road crash.

Engineer Cins, however, has a different solution to the problem. He believes that if government provides efficient public transportation system, it will reduce the number of vehicles on the road, thereby reducing road accidents.

While all these measures would go a long way in reducing the carnage on the road, caution by road users as well as more visible road signs by construction companies would be the immediate solution to the problem.

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