Sparks of brilliance and WTFs!


The Land Transport Authority is the agency charged with all things land-based transport. 2013 is a busy year for them. Two major infrastructure projects came online. The first one was on December 22nd with the partial opening of the Down Town Line.  Although the rides are free until early January 2014, the DTL has had a few DOWN times. Perhaps the name of the line has jinxed it from the get go. I think we should do the noble thing and rename it Up Town Line with the hope that there will be no more DOWNtimes. And while we are at it, change the name of the “Tan Kah Kee” station to something with a geographical reference.

The second major infrastructure launch happened on December 29 – the Marina Coastal Expressway. The stated aim of the MCE’s construction is to free up the land that the ECP occupies in the reclaimed Marina area so that there will be better use of the land. It is a fair reason and one would have thought that LTA’s road planners would have factored in all the current traffic flow as well as future demands. Amidst all the fanfare of the opening of the MCE, there are fundamental design flaws in the MCE.

An expressway is defined by two things: first, the quality of the highway in getting you from point A to B including the road surface, markings, notices, lighting and related safety considerations. On that count, I think the MCE is world class.

The second item that an expressway is defined is by the EXITs it has. After all, to deliver the traffic from A to B, the EXITs come into play. On that count, the MCE is a failure. I’ll repeat it once more – the MCE EXITs are a failure.

I wrote up an initial impressions post last night. The surface roads in the Marina business district are not ready yet to accept the flow of traffic out of the MCE. I am sure the LTA is very aware of this shortcoming and in their defence, I think it is really hard to time the roll out of new road infrastructure in a major business district and expect all things to go well. I do not, however, see any form of engagement by the LTA about the problems that the MCE is causing and how to mitigate it. In the construction of the MRT lines, the LTA had done a lot of engagements with residents around the areas that the construction was happening to make sure that issues are addressed and managed. But since the MCE is a highway that was built in an unpopulated area, that type of public education and engagement was not done. Just look at the LTA website about how to navigate to the various places that we are all accustomed to. The biggest omission is how to get to/from the Rochor Road/Ophir Road areas and the MCE. Come on, LTA, you can do better.

LTA clearly has not learned enough from earlier screw ups with highway design. Yes, land is scarce and we all accept that. But when you are building a new highway in a RECLAIMED land and most of it being UNDERGROUND, what is stopping you from thinking through the issues?  I am fully aware that there will be tradeoffs in terms of cost, time and design. When you are presented with essentially an unbuilt up area, why make compromises?  I am ready to forget about getting to Rochor from the West or going West from Ophir. But I cannot forgive the TWO lane constriction on the Eastern end of the MCE to merge into ECP. Was that really a design constraint because of land? Way too many things need a clear and honest answer from the planners at the LTA. Don’t CYA please.

The LTA has sparks of brilliance interspersed with WTFs!

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