Tema Motorway – A necessary death trap

Thu, 20 Feb 2020 Source: Asantewaa Sackey

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In 2019, I used the motorway roughly 521 times in the year to get to and from work and I paid roughly GHC1044 in tolls. Multiply that by the number of people like me who use the motorway daily.

I normally get on the motorway by 6.35am and earlier on in 2019, I would get to work by 7am, even though I had to go to the Tema end of the motorway and turn back to Accra. Towards the end of 2019 and the early part of 2020, due to all kinds of activities on the motorway, I have started getting in to work around 7.20 or later if there has been an accident.

It is glaringly obvious to anyone who uses the motorway why there is such a change in travel time and traffic flow and you would think that this would be concern to whoever is responsible for the motorway as is done in other countries where they pay attention to journey time monitoring, highway traffic flow etc.

It is difficult to rank which of the activities is the main contributor because apart from causing delays these activities are also putting drivers & passengers’ lives at risk .

The first problem is that there are several communities of squatters who live in wooden kiosks all along both sides of the road. These squatters are employed in the factories on the Spintex Road. Late last year, a half-hearted attempt was made to clear some of the squatters however the only tackled two, leaving many others behind. These communities have grown and now have public toilets, beer bars and roads leading into these settlements .

The residents cross the motorway from one settlement to another as if they are strolling to visit a neighbor. At several points along the road you will even see people running across the motorway with buckets of water! In the mornings and evenings groups of residents all along the road, either stand by the road waiting for tro tros and even metro mass buses to stop and pick them up or they step en-masse onto the road to cross to the Spintex Road, forcing cars who may be doing up to 100kmph to screech to a halt to avoid knocking them down whilst praying that the cars behind also notice and stop.

I have seen two people being knocked down and killed on my way home in the evening. The size of these communities also makes them a target for FMCG companies who use these illegal roads to supply goods to the bars and little moms and pops that have sprung up to serve them.

The second problem is all the roads that have been created leading on and off the motorway to serve more permanent communities such as MD Estates, Ashianman, the Nungua Livestock breeding area etc. Cars just veer off them or careen from them onto the motorway with reckless abandon. Residents of these permanent communities also converge at the side of the motorway and these points have been turned into lorry stations where buses, trotros and okadas stop to pick them up.

And then there are over 12 illegal u turns on the motorway that are unchecked. I have taken photos of individuals, branded company vehicles, church vehicles and even police cars that use these u turns and then join onto the stream of cars so dangerously. There are even people who have stationed themselves at these U-turns and have placed their own barriers to toll people who want to use these turns.

Another thing that baffles me is the fires that are being set to the bushes in the medians of the motorway when it is obvious that the streetlights are made of fiberglass and therefore, they melt and fall in the heat of the fire. Is this initiated by the maintenance team, if there is such a thing, or just pyromaniacs who do it for euphoria.

And whilst all this is going on, you have people who rent a police escort to force us off the road so they can get to their destination faster, and also those who decide to take to the shoulders of the motorway in order to get ahead.

The motorway has now become very ill managed highway despite all the tolls collected and on top of that the surface is now pitted and uneven.

I have, in my Facebook posts, tagged Citi FM, Joy FM, Urban Roads and The Ministry or Roads and Highways to no avail.

Research makes me understand and reasonably deduce that the reason for having a motorway is not to “connect point A to point B. Rather, its function is to reduce travel time between these two points from say 45 minutes to 10 minutes. It is to save residents time. Its second function is to reduce the rate of accidents and thus its economic and social costs. Third is to relieve residents of the inconveniences caused by the existing connections. A motorway cannot be left to function on its own. It must be monitored, and the traffic observed in order to take necessary action and guarantee the safety of users in the event of an accident of traffic jam. This monitoring is enabled via a range of technical systems that make it possible to operate and control equipment for traffic data collection, video-surveillance, accident detection, and dynamic signage, to name just a few”.

It looks as it we have lost sight of the above and that we must just be grateful for a strip of tarmac.

There has been talk of a Private Public Project and in 2018 we were told that four teams has prequalified for the bid

https://www.infrapppworld.com/news/megaproject-1312-four-teams-prequalified-for-the-accra-tema-motorway-ppp The successful bidder will be responsible for:

• Reconstruction of the Accra-Tema motorway with a focus on capacity enhancement.

• Provision of entry and exit ramps at strategic locations along the motorway.

• Upgrading and capacity enhancement of the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange

• Provision of necessary facilities for safe pedestrian crossings

• Construction of grade-separated interchanges at the Tema and Ashaiman roundabouts

• Capacity enhancement of the road link between the two roundabouts of the road leading up to the Afariwa junction on the Akosombo road

• Remodeling of the Apenkwa Interchange

• Upgrading of road linking Apenkwa Interchange and Neoplan junction

What has happened to this project? In the meantime, why does it not seem important enough for the police and TMA and AMA to be interested in our safety as well as mental and physical health?

A online story from 2015 states “we joined the Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS) to prioritize improving our road network, enhancing police enforcement, running mass media campaigns, and strengthening our data collection methods. One of the successes of this initiative is the re-design of Gbegbeyese area, where we constructed a 300-meter pedestrian walkway and worked with the Accra Police MTTD to better enforce road safety rules. So far, we have taken over 200 defective motorbikes off the road and enforced laws that seek to reduce unsafe behaviors, such as failure to properly wear a helmet”; https://www.bloomberg.org/blog/breaking-ground-safer-roads-accra-ghana/ Did we achieve our objectives?

Then an online story on the 18th of February 2020, https://www.myjoyonline.com/news/2020/February-18th/ghana-to-benefit-from-240m-bloomberg-philanthropies-initiative-against-road-traffic-deaths.php, reports that a further reinvestment of $240,000,000 is being allocated to us to help prevent road traffic deaths over a six year period. It would be

Frequent drivers of the motorway are constantly stressed. Soon drivers will have to hit the motorway at 5am to ensure they get to work on time in Accra. There is a knock-on negative impact on employers as staff show up late and tired. Children are exhausted by the need to wake up earlier and the delays and people are being knocked down and injured or killed.

Are these reasons enough for some attention to be turned towards the motorway?

Columnist: Asantewaa Sackey