By LEKE ADESERI, South West Regional Editor & BOSE ADELAJA
THE third mainland bridge in Lagos will be closed to traffic for repairs in four months starting from July 1, 2012. The first signals for the proposed closure came through several banners hung in strategic places that show that maintenance works would be carried out on the all-important bridge from July 1 to Nov 6, 2012.
But Thursday, Lagos State Commissioner for Information, Lateef Ibirogba, confirmed the development and said plans are in top gear for provision of alternative routes.
He also said there will be proper information and education for Lagosians on how to move throughout the period of closure.
The commissioner said Lagosians are in for a good deal as Lagos State Traffic Management Agency, LASTMA, officials and all other stakeholders will work hand in hand to ensure orderliness to avoid chaos on Lagos roads throughout the period. Within this period, commuters have been advised to take alternative routes.
Citizens concern: The state of the Lagos Third Mainland Bridge is no news, as many people ply that bridge with their hearts in their mouths, because of its deplorable state.
Many calls have been made by Nigerians for the bridge to be repaired, but prior to this time, only minor repair works were done on it. The latest move may have been informed by the increasing fear for lives and property. There are indications that some of the minor maintenance works have started at the time of this report. Lagosians seem not to be convinced that the closure of the bridge is due to maintenance alone. This is because the period of closure seems like a rather long period.
Some believe that it is a tactic to decongest the bridge. It would be recalled that some reports say the Boko Haram sect marked out Lagos and Ibadan for their next strike. There is fear over the pain and hardship the closure will cause as the Third Mainland Bridge is a major traffic route for people going to Victoria Island, Ikoyi and many other parts of Lagos State.
The Third Mainland Bridge is the longest of three bridges connecting Lagos Island to the mainland, the other two being the Eko and Carter bridges. It is the longest bridge in Africa. The bridge starts from Oworonshoki which is linked to the Apapa-Oshodi express way and Lagos-Ibadan express way, and ends at the Adeniji Adele Interchange on Lagos Island.
There is also a link midway through the bridge that leads to the Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba. It was built by Julius Berger Nigeria PLC and opened by former military President Ibrahim Babangida in 1990. It measures about 11.8km in length.
Previous closures: The bridge was shut last on Sunday, October 16, 2011 when there were reports that it was vibrating, indicating that it needed urgent attention. Remedial work was then carried out on the failed portions of the bridge. Before then there have were rumours of cracks on the bridge. This, however, was vehemently denied by authorities.
However, it seems there is now a final determination to rectify the situation by closing the bridge for about four months. It has always been known that the road has been in need of repair for a while, but that can not naturally cause us to shrug off the daunting fact that traffic in Lagos will be greatly affected, and workers will have to start getting up earlier than usual.
When the last repairs were carried out last year, stakeholders held a meeting on the proposed closure. It was learnt that the Lagos State Government objected to the closure of the bridge during the meeting to map out ways to ease the traffic chaos that might arise thereafter.
At that meeting it was said that the state government officials told representatives of the Federal Government that the state lacked resources and infrastructure to deal with the likely traffic crisis that might arise as a result of the planned closure.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Transport at the time, Prof. Bamidele Badejo, confirmed the state’s position then. Badejo was quoted as saying “There is a committee working with the Federal Ministry of Transportation.”
The first total traffic diversion on the 11.8-kilometre bridge took place on Sunday, August 31, 2008, when concrete works on two of the four defected joints were done. According to Ibirogba, the total traffic diversion would deny motorists access to the bridge.
He, therefore, advised motorists intending to go to Lagos Island during the period to avoid the Third Mainland Bridge and make use of alternative routes. The closure, he explained, would guarantee the safety of lives and property of Lagosians during the repair.
Possible alternatives: Although there has been no word either from the state or Federal authorities on the possible alternatives, if the bridge is eventually closed, ferry, helicopter and train services may become alternative means of transportation for many people moving in and out of the Lagos Island. This will, however, mean that the Lagos State Government might have to construct emergency jetties where passengers could board ferries on some of the 10 abandoned routes in the state.
The abandoned routes include the Marina-Ikorodu, Marina-Mile 2 and Marina-Aja. Only the Marina-Apapa route is currently operational. But the truth is that the reactivation of the jetties could not be achieved in less than a month. Another possibility is for the Nigerian Railway Corporation to increase its number of mass transit trains in Lagos.
The NRC currently runs three train services in the mornings and three in the evenings. While two from Ijoko and Agbado head for Iddo, the third train takes off from Iddo to Agbado with stop stations at Ebute Meta, Yaba, Mushin, Oshodi, Ikeja, Agege and Agbado..
The morning services begin at 7am and in the evenings at 4pm. Helicopter companies in Lagos can also benefit from the closure of the bridge by commencing “awareness flights” to and from Lagos Island. But the key snag here will be affordability. For example, the OAS Helicopters in Maryland, Lagos, provides only charter services while a charter flight on its eight-passenger helicopter to the Island costs N377,000, including Value Added Tax.