A long-awaited footbridge -- promised by Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Mayor Atiqul Islam himself following the tragic death of a youth under a bus on the road -- has been abruptly closed down within a week of opening it to public.
Photos and videos of the jam-packed overbridge on Pragati Sarani near Jamuna Future Park caused a stir on Dhaka-based Facebook group Traffic Alert (facebook.com/groups/trafficalert.bd) earlier this week, where pedestrians said they needed 10-15 minutes to cross the 95-foot long bridge due to excessive load of commuters.
The situation was created as traffic police closed the zebra crossing on the road after the footbridge was opened.
“It took me 15 minutes to cross the bridge, as the entire overpass from one end to the other was crammed with people. Although it is a commendable step from DNCC, if it becomes difficult to cross the bridge then it doesn’t serve its purpose at all,” said Reyquel Sangma, a private service holder who lives in the area.
However, on Sunday, this correspondent found the bridge’s entrances blocked, with a sign that said construction work was still going on.
On March 19, following students’ agitation surrounding the death of private university student Abrar Ahmed Chowdhury in a road accident near the spot, Mayor Atiqul promised to construct a footbridge there. The foundation stone of the footbridge -- named after Abrar -- was laid the very next day.
It was completed in August and opened in the first week of September, said DNCC Superintendent Engineer Arifur Rahman, unable to specify the date.
He said the bridge was opened due to pressure of pedestrians. “The main structure of the bridge has already been completed. The paint work is still under process. Therefore, we closed the bridge temporarily. However, we will open up the bridge within two days for public,” he told this correspondent yesterday, claiming that it is one of the widest footbridges in the city.
The footbridge was built by PEB Steel Alliance Ltd as part of its corporate social responsibility, he added.
Contacted yesterday, Efat Jahan, PEB’s assistant manager, said the work of the footbridge was not completed as some paint and welding work are still ongoing, and they did not hand it over to DNCC yet, but it was still usable. Asked why it was opened to public before completion of work, she said it was DNCC’s decision.
Asked how long it would take them to complete the work, she said “That cannot be pinpointed. We are working to finish it soon.”
Lighting and installation of an escalator will be done by DNCC, said sources at the city corporation office.
Admitting the issue, DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam said, “After opening the bridge, we have seen challenges. Crowding is one of them. We will add an escalator to mitigate this challenge. We have already floated tender for the work.”
He also said people complained regarding the width of the stairs to the bridge, but engineers tried their best to make the stairs without narrowing the footpaths for the passers-by.
“We opened it [the footbridge] on a trial basis. But we want it to operate fully. Once we add the escalator, people will start to reap the benefits. Particularly elderly people will be able to avail the facility.”
There is another bridge within 300-400 metres which people can use, the mayor added.
TRAFFIC JAM RETURNS ON PRAGATI SARANI
After the footbridge was closed on Sunday, traffic police reopened the zebra crossing for people to cross the road. Swarms of people were seen using the zebra crossing, slowing down traffic.
According to traffic officials, hundreds of people cross the road every hour. Therefore, the natural flow of vehicles is hampered frequently. The bridge helped them a lot in controlling the chaotic situation, but as the bridge was closed, the scenario returned to its previous state.
“When the bridge was open, we stopped the zebra crossing for smooth flow of vehicles, but now as the bridge is closed, we are allowing pedestrians to cross through the median.
People are crossing the road so frequently that officials like me do not even get the time to relieve ourselves,” said Hamza, an on-duty traffic policeman on Sunday.