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Phuket Highways Chief calls for patience as Chalong Underpass construction begins

Phuket Highways Chief calls for patience as Chalong Underpass construction begins

PHUKET: Excavation to install the retaining walls for the Chalong Underpass began last Friday (Dec 9), marking the beginning of at least two years of major traffic tailbacks at one of the busiest intersections on the island.

By Tanyaluk Sakoot

Sunday 18 December 2016, 09:00AM

Phuket Highway Department Chief Papiwetwoottisak Sookkii asked drivers to be patient while the construction continues.

“Remember, the idea of this underpass is to solve the problem of traffic jams at Chalong Circle,” he said.

The construction contract – assigning Civil Engineering Co Ltd a budget of B546 million to complete the underpass – officially began on July 28, 2015, but an oversight saw work on moving the power lines, utility poles and water pipes not beginning until March this year.

The seven-month late start means that the scheduled completion date of September 14, 2017 is unlikely to be realised.

Tailbacks more than a kilometre long were already evident on the south side of Chalong Circle last weekend.

“This project is the hardest I’ve ever had because of the narrow roads and the volume of traffic,” said Somkiet Yimpong, the Phuket Highways Department engineer tasked with overseeing the project.

“This is more like Bangkok traffic; other areas in Phuket are much easier for a project like this than Chalong Circle,” he added.

Mr Somkiet is already tasked with overseeing the construction of two underpasses in Phuket: the Bang Khu Underpass; and the new underpass at the Thepkrasattri Rd turnoff to the airport.

Mr Somkiet urged motorists to use the designated alternative routes around Chalong Circle, but admitted that this would not alleviate the traffic jams at the site entirely.

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Phuket Highways Chief Mr Papiwetwoottisak had worse news – not all the land required for the project has been acquired. “Some of the land is ready for construction, but other parcels are not,” he said.

Mr Somkiet explained, “The expropriated land is a major barrier for this project, and I have no idea when the whole project will be finished if this issue is not resolved.

“The Land Acquisition division of the Department of Highways are working on this now,” he added.

In the meantime, work will continue on the tunnel.

“After the retaining walls are in place, tunnel excavation will begin, with the excavation starting from the Chalong side and continuing to the Rawai side,” Mr Somkiet said.

“I understand how much traffic jams there are. We apologise for this inconvenience. Please, be patient for this project. It is made to resolve traffic jams,” Mr Papiwetwoottisak added.

As a New Year’s gift to people driving through the area, Mr Papiwetwoottisak said that plans were afoot to pause construction from Dec 29 to Jan 4.

“We plan to halt construction at all sites in Phuket over the New Year holiday period so we can make as much road space available to motorists as possible,” he said.

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Pauly44 | 20 December 2016 - 12:15:29

Whenever police "step in" to control traffic flow it gets far worse as they allow drivers to proceed far longer than the lights would which results in tail backs for the other lanes. Phuket roads were never designed to accommodate this much traffic, plus drivers either don't know or don't follow road rules which adds to the chaos. Was stuck in the underpass the other day as they ...

Kurt | 19 December 2016 - 21:35:37

@ malczx7r: Yes, you have given a fine observation of Chalong Circle, with and without waving and whistling police men.
Without police at the Circle, traffic goes around quite smooth.
With police, un-coordinated among each other, it is a mess.
I always have to laugh as it is thai soap opera stuff.

malczx7r | 19 December 2016 - 00:32:09

Easy way to stop congestion at Chalong circle, get people to obey roundabout law, get police officers directing traffic who know what they are doing instead of those who do it now and make the problem worse because they don't organise themselves properly and work cohesively, there are far too many of them working independently of each other letting their lane into the circle dire tly into onc...

Nasa123 | 18 December 2016 - 16:45:37

This underpassen constructions in Chalone is one of the stupidest I've ever seen in my life. Why you not made the overpass? So had you been finished 5 months ago and saved several hundred million Bath.

Kurt | 18 December 2016 - 14:08:55

Unlikely to be realized by September 2017?
A child of 8 years old can see that.
If Chalong Underpass will be open by September 2019 we may feel lucky.
It is a continuing story of 'pauses'.
When they start to work 7 days a week, 24 hours a day?
At night the traffic is almost nothing.
Also Dec 29 till Jan 04 they can work at night. Than it is quiet around the circle.

Hello, this is ...

Asterix | 18 December 2016 - 11:49:07

This underpass built between Rawai and Chaofa west Road should have an underpass in Y for those coming from Rawai and willing to go to Phuket Town via Chaofa East Road as most of vehicules and motorcycles from Rawai want to go toward Chaofa East Road.

The final underpass design as it is planned today will make compulsory for the motorists from Rawai to use the Chalong Circle and will continious...

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