Build roads for the future

Editorial, Normal

WE report today that slow reaction by motorists to give way to ambulances costs lives.
Drivers are either ignorant of where to drive when ambulance or police sirens are heard or they are plain disrespectful and continue driving down the road, impeding the progress of ambulances to and from emergency sites.
The precious minutes that the ambulance loses stuck behind traffic are often the difference between life and death. But it is even more direct than that.
How many other lives are lost because drivers are reckless, careless or just do not know the traffic rules?
How many accidents have happened at sharp bends because drivers have ignored double white lines which forbid overtaking and decided to roar around the corner on the wrong lane and headed full tilt into oncoming traffic?
How many drivers have ignored road signs which direct them to stop or to take care or to mind winding or sharp bends, to their eternal regret?
The National has written about ignorance of traffic laws on so many occasions in the past with scant attention from the authorities, so it is most pleasing and, we might add, long overdue that a massive traffic awareness campaign was launched like the one being promised by the Motor Vehicles Insurance Trust for next month.
Many drivers learn how to drive a car, to shift through the gears and bring a vehicle to a stop and then thinking that is all that is required of them they take to our highways.
Their education has hardly started but they don’t know the difference. The bits that drivers often do not learn – about road rules and road courtesy – are what eventually costs them their own lives and, tragically, those of other innocent ones as well.
Another area which requires a little more than traffic and road awareness and driver education is planning for roads in the country.
In the Southern Highlands town of Tari, which is soon to become the district headquarters of the new Hela province, there is a road being built from the Hides and Koroba junction back towards Tari and actually making a loop around the sleepy little town.
Built by Curtain Brothers, it is a marvel for it is easily six lanes wide. A Twin Otter aircraft could easily land on the straighter stretches of the winding road.
The cynics and detractors of the political engineer for the road, Southern Highlands Governor Anderson Agiru, say it is a white elephant. At first it appears the cynics might be right for there is hardly the traffic to warrant such an expensive and huge road.
But then you have to think about what Tari will be like 10 or 15 years down the track, after the liquefied natural gas project has delivered billions into the area and Tari is a thriving centre for commerce and industry.
The road being built from the Southern Highlands to a sea port in the Gulf of Papua will give the Highlands region its second access to a sea port.
When you take in all these developments, you will see the rationale for a huge road of this size for Tari. There will be no need to dig up a small road in order to expand it to make way for increased traffic.
This is what has been happening in the capital city. Roads are just dug up for the purpose of expanding them for increased traffic. Yet, the expansions are in themselves also limited to the immediate needs, without any consideration for what might lie five or 10 years down the line.
The road to Gerehu was expanded from single to double lane each way only a few years back to cater for traffic in that crowded residential suburb of Port Moresby.
The double lane road is so narrow in places that two cars driving abreast do not leave room for even a motorcycle to pass.
On most days during peak hours in the mornings and in the evenings, the traffic crawls along bumper to bumper.
In such a situation, were an emergency vehicle to sound its siren, it is virtually impossible to give way. The emergency vehicle will have to join the queue or drive down some byways. It cannot even pass on the curbs for there are none.
Today businesses and residential areas are built so close to roads that there is hardly any room for service lines such as power, water and telephone lines, much less for any further expansion of the roads.
We can only see Port Moresby resorting to super highways on pillars or sub-ways underground or even tram lines. And these will cost more.