Governor Norraphat gave the order for more to be done to alleviate traffic jams at a meeting at Provincial Hall yesterday (Feb 19).
In response, project engineer Somkiet Yimpong explained to The Phuket News today (Feb 20), “There will be about 30 metres more space on the roads for people to drive on in about two months. Then traffic will be able to flow while the construction is completed step by step.
“Right now, construction of the underpass is 34% complete, as this project is expected to be finished in April 2019. At this stage the roof and walls of the underpass are being installed, and the concrete base for the roads leading into the tunnel is being laid,” he added.
Mr Somkiet urged drivers to use alternative routes to avoid using the Chalong Circle, easily the busiest intersection in the south of the island.
“Drivers travelling between Rawai and Kata-Karon can divert to Suksan 1 Rd. Those travelling between Phuket Town and Kata-Karon can divert along Anusorn Rd,” he added.
Governor Norraphat yesterday was plain in his appreciation of the traffic woes for people driving past the construction site.
“This issue needs to be solved as fast as possible,” he said.
“First, set up more signs so people are aware of the alternative routes. Also, the project manager must add more lights and bring in extra workers for safety.
“This project must progress faster,” Governor Norraphat repeated.
Phuket Provincial Police Commander Maj Gen Teeraphol Thipjaroen yesterday raised his concerns.
“We are concerned about residents being permanently stuck in traffic jams on this road. The people need to know about the alternative routes. This will help reduce the traffic jams in the area,” he said.
However, what was not raised at the meeting was concern for ambulances and other emergency service vehicles being caught up in traffic snarls at the site while attempting to save people from death.
One reader of The Phuket News wrote in last week deeply concerned about the issue, especially after witnessing an ambulance being caught in the southbound traffic with sirens wailing.
The current lane arrangement gives no room for vehicles to move out of the way, and there is no road shoulder for the ambulance to avoid being stuck in the traffic.
“Today, I saw an ambulance that had its siren on and they were locked in behind a tourist bus and concrete blocks. People can die waiting for the ambulance!,” wrote the Norwegian, a regular visitor to Phuket for many years.
“The ambulance was heading towards Rawai, and if he needed to come back (through Chalong Circle) to get to some of the big hospitals, he should take a boat instead. It would be faster by speedboat and the injured could be picked up somewhere along the coast.
“This is absolutely unacceptable,” he added.
The push by the Governor for the Chalong Underpass to be completed as quickly as possible follows a long history of delays to the B500-million project.
The contract for construction of the Chalong Underpass originally commenced on July 28, 2015, with a set deadline for Sept 14 last year.
However, delays in moving power lines, water mains and even the acquisition of the land required to complete the project saw the contractor, Civil Engineering Co Ltd, finally begin excavation in March last year. (See story here.)
But by June last year the project was already being flamed for its lack of progress and its impact on businesses anywhere south of the Chalong Circle. (See story here.)
Those concerns were repeated again only last month by former Phuket Democrat MP Raywat Areerob and Chalong Mayor Samran Jindaphol, who together filed a formal complaint with Governor Norraphat at Governor House in Phuket Town. (See story here.)