By Gboyega Akosile
From 6:30am up to about 9:30am, and most times till noon, motorists plying the ever-busy Lekki-Epe Expressway from Ajah axis inward Victoria Island and other parts of Lagos, now have a daily ordeal of traffic snarl to contend with.
Arguably, the axis is the busiest not only in Nigeria but also in Africa on account of the fact that it houses the headquarters of major multi-national corporations and other organisations, including financial institutions, oil companies, property firms, telecommunications giants, hospitality firms, automobile companies, major shopping malls and government institutions.
As a result of the pressure on the road network within the axis, coupled with other factors, residents, business owners, investors and commuters generally are not finding it easy with the traffic situation in the corridor due to what they have to contend with while using the road daily.
Aside from the deplorable state of some of the roads on the axis, the situation is further compounded by inadequate road infrastructure, roundabouts occupying more than necessary space, delays caused by tolling system at the Lekki-Epe Toll Gate and Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge Toll Plaza, and locked drains, among other factors.
To address the challenges, a stakeholders meeting was held fortnight ago at Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Victoria Island chaired by the State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, with other key government functionaries including the Deputy Governor, Dr Obafemi Hamzat in attendance.
The meeting was held at the instance of the State Government in partnership with major private investors, to present a comprehensive proposal designed by a team of expert in the public transportation sector, to bring about free flow of traffic in the axis.
The proposed solution, which includes designation of some roads as One-Way, road reconstruction, junction improvement works, traffic systems management measures, among others, was designed by Planet Projects Limited and it is to be funded through a Public-Private Partnership arrangement.
In his opening remarks, Managing Director of Access Bank, Mr Herbert Wigwe, said the partnership was embarked upon to find a lasting solution to the traffic situation along the axis, being a critical commercial zone.
Wigwe, whose firm is one of the partners in the PPP model alongside Fidelity Bank, said the major objective of the arrangement is to re-arrange the traffic architecture in the Lekki-Oniru and Victoria Island axis, with the view to reduce travel time and make life comfortable for everybody.
“At the beginning of Governor Sanwo-Olu’s campaign, one of the things he said he would focus on is transportation and traffic management. This obviously is a big problem out here. We have engaged in several discussions with the Governor and we have worked with a consultant to carry out very detailed traffic studies of Lekki-Oniru axis with the view to ensure that we eliminate traffic the way it exists today from Victoria Island up to Oniru and Lekki,” Wigwe said.
Giving details of the proposed solutions, Managing Director of Planet Projects Limited, Mr Biodun Otunola, said from the comprehensive studies carried out, it was discovered that there were five major locations vulnerable to gridlock in the area, which include Sandfill Junction, Akinbolagbe Street, Ligali Ayorinde to Ajose Adeogun, Akinbolagbe Street to Ligali Ayorinde Junction and Muri Okunola Roundabout.
As part of the proposed solutions, Otunola said all the deplorable roads in the axis must be reconstructed with standard facilities, including drainage system, walkway and streetlight. He said due to the topography of the area, concretised road should be used to replace asphalt to make the road stand the test of time.
“We have also proposed that Akinbolagbe Street has to return to dual carriageway, while most of the roundabouts have to be replaced with signalised light. Some roads will also be classified as One-Way, while old Sandfill-Maroko Road would be constructed to make up for the fact that motorists would no longer be allowed to make left turn at the Oniru Junction of Lekki Expressway/Yesufu Abiodun,” Otunola said.
Responding to concerns raised by stakeholders, especially land-owners and indigenous families in the area, Governor Sanwo-Olu said although there would always be room for continuous engagement and improvement, the ultimate objective of the planned re-arrangement and re-development of the traffic architecture of the axis, was to reduce travel time and make life comfortable for residents.
The Governor said: “Further engagement will continue so that the consultant that is working can go back and take a deep dive to see areas that we can still work on. It is collaborative and it is a PPP engagement. The whole idea is that we want to solve the traffic issue around here; we want to improve travel time. Like we said during the campaign, we cannot just be people without solutions to our issues; we cannot just sit back and fold our arms and say that we cannot get anything out of our challenges.
“It is an innovative way of solving the traffic challenges we have around here and the fact is there will be inconveniences in terms of where you usually have two minutes to make a turn or a road that is now one-way. I mean just picture the fact that it took a while when some roads in Victoria Island were made one-way traffic for people to understand, and part of this is that we are not just going to leave the people; there would be massive engagement and we would also work with LASTMA (Lagos State Traffic Management Authority) and other agencies as well as put in place enough of road furniture that would tell you where to turn and the areas you cannot enter. There will also be continuous advocacy so that people can have a clear picture of what we are trying to do.”
After the meeting, the Governor and his team which included the Deputy Governor, the Head of Service, Mr Hakeem Muri-Okunola, and Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr Gboyega Soyannwo, among other top government functionaries, carried out an on-the-spot assessment of the traffic flashpoints in the area, especially from Victoria Island down to Lekki, Ajah, Abraham Adesanya Roundabout, Admiralty Way and Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge.
Addressing reporters, Governor Sanwo-Olu announced the decision of the State Government to open the toll plazas at both Lekki-Epe Expressway and Lekki-Ikoyi Link Bridge free to the public for one day during rush hours on Thursday, July 11, 2019.
Specifically, the Governor declared a toll-free passage at the toll plazas between 6:30am and 9:30am in the morning, and also at the peak period in the evening from 4:30pm to 8pm.
The objective, according to Governor Sanwo-Olu is to allow traffic consultants to the government carry out a comprehensive study of traffic flow around Lekki-Ikoyi-Victoria Island axis, which is part of the initiatives the government is bringing to diffuse vehicular gridlock in major Business Districts in the state.
Sanwo-Olu said: “Tomorrow being Thursday, the toll plazas on the Ikoyi Link Bridge and Lekki-Epe Expressway will be opened free of charge between 6:30am and 9:30am in the morning and also between 4:30pm and 8:00pm in the evening. This is to allow us to do a real simulation of traffic study in these areas that usually witness high density of vehicular movement daily.
“We are currently undertaking a traffic study with our experts and we want to know where the traffic goes to when the tollgates are left open for steady movement. It is only when we do this activity at the peak hour that we will be able to understand how to deal with congestion in this area.”
The Governor added that the undertaking was necessary for the government to take actions that would lead to the reduction of traffic in the axis by at least 50 percent, just as he expressed optimism that the regeneration effort would lead to a reduction in travel time and improved productivity.
“Our government wants to bring about a quick journey time through our traffic solution. The way we want to do it is to have an online real-time study of what the issues are. We are going to analyse the dimension of observed challenges and discuss next steps of solution we are bringing,” he said.
As part of the measures being initiated to achieve free flow of traffic, Governor Sanwo-Olu hinted that the mode of toll collection at the Ikoyi-Link Bridge would completely go electronic, disclosing that a new method of payment would take off in October.
The Governor, therefore, urged motorists plying the route to apply ahead for electronic access cards at Lagos Tolling Company in compliance with the new service.
He said: “In October, the partners that we are working with will introduce a software that will allow electronic collection of toll fees. This means that motorists will not be paying cash. The process to implement this is on, and we will come up with a seamless electronic solution.
“We are giving three months notice to residents and motorists to prepare ahead. By the time this is done, we believe some of the bottlenecks in and around Ikoyi would be reduced and we are hoping there would be free flow of traffic.”
He added that the size of the roundabout at the Admiralty Road would also be reduced for the purpose of traffic diffusion.
Besides, Governor Sanwo-Olu also visited the scene of recent flood in Abraham Adesanya Junction to inspect the cause of the clogged drainage in the area, where he announced that the Office of the Drainage Services had been given a task to ensure free flow of water in the clogged drainages and canals in Ajah area.
He said: “Our inspection of Abraham Adesanya Junction in Ajah area is to take necessary assessment of the condition of drainage in the area. We have identified things we need to do to have free flow of water from the area to the lagoon. We are also looking at reduction of the size of the roundabout there. We are coming out with a comprehensive traffic and drainage solutions at the Abraham Adesanya area.
“We have had several complaints about how long it takes people moving around Ajah Bus Stop. We are going to push a major layby where we can take commercial vehicles off the road. We have realised that commercial vehicles are the major cause of traffic at the spot. We are going to push the layby there and cut it off, so that motorists moving inward Victoria Island can have an easy access. We are looking at both lanes to reduce journey time.”
Definitely, the government is on the move to bring about a major re-arrangement of the traffic architecture of the Victoria Island-Lekki-Epe corridor, and the cooperation of the people remains sacrosanct to effect the desired change.
Gboyega Akosile is the Deputy Chief Press Secretary to Governor Sanwo-Olu.