Getting to work, school or indeed, any other destination on time is increasingly becoming a nightmare in the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe, especially during peak hours. But the good news is that the city fathers are not sleeping on the job. They have noted the problem and are seen to be doing something to ease the agonies of the travelling public. Our Staff Writer MICHAEL MMEYA caught up with Blantyre City public relations manager ANTHONY KASUNDA for insights on a new drive to decongest traffic in the country’s commercial capital.
Which roads have been earmarked for this traffic decongesting drive?
The Blantyre City Council is upgrading three roads from dusty to asphalt. The council is also constructing slip lanes on several road junctions. All these projects are aiming at easing the flow of traffic in the city and, also, decongesting main motorways because several bypasses will be created. So far, the projects that are currently running are the construction of Chilobwe-Stella Maris Road, North Road-Market Street in Limbe, Kapeni Road-Mahatma Gandhi and slip lanes at Kamba traffic lights, Kapeni, Keza Building junction and South End schools junctions.
Apart from these roads, the council has already advertised tenders for the construction of the following roads in the city: Namiwawa-Sunnyside [Bank Road and Smythe Road], of Lali Lubani Road across Masauko Chipembere Highway via Malawi Polytechnic Village-Kenyatta Drive, Ndirande-Nkolokoti Road [Makhetha], Chipatala Kamba Avenue, Michiru Road-Likhubula Road, Newlands-Manje via Chiwembe Road and Old Zomba Road-Mapanga.
How soon should motorists wait to enjoy smooth travel on the city’s roads in relation to this project?
Once the roads I have mentioned above are completed, the experience of road users will change for the better. All these traffic jams, and congestion nightmares will be a thing of the past. You will agree with me that congestion is a result of various factors. That is why the council is constructing bypasses as one way of dealing with the issue at hand. So, a little more patience and things will be different.
What is the estimated cost of the projects and what is the source of funding?
For the projects that are already under construction, the Government provided us with K2 billion through the Roads Fund Administration. For the projects that have been tendered, the council is still working with consulting engineers to determine the actual cost, but we expect to spend not less than K10 billion on all those projects.
But Limbe commercial business district [CBD]seems to have been forgotten in this initiative?
Limbe is not forgotten. North Road-Market Street is in Limbe, and it will definitely play a significant role in easing congestion in the CBD.
What is being done about chaotic parking in both Limbe and Blantyre CBDs, which is eating into driving space thereby contributing to traffic congestion?
The issue of parking spaces in both Limbe and Blantyre CBDs is a culmination of several factors. But prominent is the illegal parking of vehicles for sale and the influx of these Toyota Sientas that are being used for public transport. The council is working with relevant stakeholders in dealing with these issues. The council is also looking for a private partner to construct a multi-storey parkade that can accommodate over 400 vehicles at a time. The council also resolved that any new building in the city should make provision for underground parking spaces. All these initiatives are to address the issue of lack of parking space in the two CBDs.
Of late, we have seen unprecedented encroachment on Masauko Chipemphere Highway road reserve, what is happening?
I wish you could come out very clear. Encroachment of Masauko Chipembere Highway in what way? But be assured that the council would not allow anybody to encroach in the highway reserve as it is also doing its best to protect all road reserves in the city. Let me also appeal to you our partners, the media, to continue sensitising residents and developers on the need to protect not only road reserves, but also all public facilities such as street lights and road signs.