By Bose Adebayo
About two weeks ago, there was jubilation at Okota-Itire and its environs when the Okota-Itire overhead bridge was commissioned by the Lagos State governor, Babatunde Fashola. Indeed, most traders and artisans in the area did not transact businesses on that day as they thronged the venue with different placards expressing their appreciation of the good works done by the state government.
The bridge was embellished with the construction of Ijesha road, Ogunlana drive, Market and Asoye streets with a total length of 350 kilometres. The purpose was to easeÂ vehicular movement and de-congest traffic in the neighbouring area within the overhead link bridge. Apart from this, the usual stress of linking Surulere from Cele Express would be reduced as commuters might not need to travel several kilometres before they could access the road.
However, motorists and other road users were shocked by the volume of traffic that greeted the opening of the bridge. In fact, 24 hours after the commissioning, most of the road users were asking themselves if the bridge was not now a curse instead of a blessing as a journey that ordinarily should have taken five minutes suddenly stretched to two or three hours.
Many who envisaged that the opening of the bridge will solve the problem of traffic gridlock in the area seem to be disappointed that that is not presently the case. This is because during the rush hours,Â a gridlock usually starts from the foot of the bridge and extends to the service lane of the expressway and also to Church Bus-stop at Okota with motorists and commuters jostling for space on both axis of the Okota road.
Some motorists who spoke with Vanguard Metro said the traffic jam usually starts building up from 5pm, a development which compels commuters to trek long distances before they could board vehicles to their various destinations.
While some attributed the gridlock to carelessness on the part of some traffic wardens in the area, others said the Okota road was too narrow to accommodate the volume of traffic coming from the overhead bridge. But Vanguard Metro can authoritatively reveal that the problem originated essentially from a construction work carried out in the area by the Lagos State Water Corporation some months back. The construction had left a ditch in front of a shopping complex at Church Bus-stop, Okota which presently slows down the flow of traffic.
Not only had the ditch hindered vehicular activities in the area, it had also become a death trap to residents, especially students who would have to spend hours on the spot before crossing to the other side of the road. Commercial motorists also find it difficult picking or dropping passengers at the ever-busy bus-stop.
Some car owners who spoke with this reporter expressed satisfaction at the overhead bridge but said they might avoid the route until the gridlock is completely reduced. â€œWe thought the bridge would ease traffic congestion in this area, but that has not been the case,â€ Akeem Kalejaye said.
When Vanguard Metro recently visited the area, scores of commuters were stranded at the various bus-stops. The situation was worse at Okota junction as commercial drivers are forced to slow down by a team of traffic police men demanding for the usual but illegal toll of N100.
While there was an appreciable presence of uniformed men at Okota junction, little or no attention was being paid to Church Bus-stop, theÂ vortex of the gridlock. Street urchins popularly called area boys have been taking advantage of the situation to allow indiscriminate parking in a bid to extort money from commercial drivers.
â€œI regret plying this route today because I have spent nothing less than two hours here. Government should do something before the situation gets out of hand,â€ lamented one Charles Ugochukwu.
An official of a filling station who pleaded anonymity told Vanguard Metro the gridlock has been hindering motorists from gaining access to the filling station. â€œThe entrance of this filling station is always blocked in the evenings; that was as soon as the bridge was commissioned. You know the volume of traffic has seriously increased,â€ he said.