There have been a few letters of late concerning the proposed “tunnels” along Sukhumvit Road at Pattaya Nua, Klang, Tai, and Thepprasit. While I agree whole heartedly with the opinions stated that a flyover is a much better option than a tunnel, I believe the entire project requires some serious thinking.
First and foremost the root of the congestion at Sukhumvit Road and these junctions is caused mainly by the fact that the mentioned roads cannot handle the traffic imposed on them due to a total lack of control on parking, turning, double parking, etc. One or two turning lanes becomes three or sometimes even four, only allowing one or maybe two lanes to pass through. On busy weekends people flock to Beach Road to do the obligatory “tour” on a road that has been taken over by motorcycle rental shops, vendors parking their trucks, shop owners putting up barricades, baht buses and meter taxis parking where ever they choose, etc.
Secondly there is a need to allow vehicles to pass these intersections without being held up at traffic lights. The Sukhumvit by-pass road along the railway was supposed to answer this problem, but unless you have a death wish it is not wise to attempt to travel this road. No one pays any attention to the traffic lights and there is no rhyme or reason as to which road(s) should have priority. The concept of a blinking red or yellow light is not adhered to or understood by the majority of Thai drivers.
One letter a couple of weeks ago suggested another bypass road to the East of the railway bypass that would enter Sukhumvit Road between Huay Yai and Ban Amphur. The arguments presented were valid and to some degree would be a reasonable alternative/addition to the tunnel project. I disagree with the idea of having the bypass road enter into Ban Amphur as all that would be accomplished is to move the problem a bit further down Sukhumvit. The Ban Amphur / Bang Sare area is rapidly growing and is already putting pressure on traffic flows in this part of Sukhumvit. A “ring road” concept is more applicable in this case.
An alternative thought would be to abandon the proposed bypass road now planned to cross from below Siam CC to somewhere near to Bang Sare. Route 33 from Highway 7 towards Rayong is currently a two lane highway with little commercial development. This road could be widened to three lanes as far as the junction to Ban Chan, or all the way to Rayong. Route 331 leading to Sattahip could be widened to two lanes in each direction. There are limited commercial buildings along this road so land acquisition should not pose a great problem. Feeder roads such as the road that runs past Phoenix GC into Ban Amphur, the road to Silverlake Vineyard, etc., could be widened or upgraded to handle only the limited excess traffic that is directly involved with these areas. The major drawback to using Rte 331 currently is it is only two lanes and can be quite difficult with large speeding trucks and busses, especially at night. For people heading to Huay Yai, Ban Amphur, Bang Sare, Sattahip this would be a much better alternative than taking the Rte 7 to Naklua and then facing the Sukhumvit traffic. There could still be a connector off the Rte 7 to service the Siam CC Road area.
Note the discussion has moved from Pattaya Klang to Sattahip. This is intentional as what must be done prior to any construction contracts being let, is a Regional Master Traffic Plan must be developed. We cannot continue to just shift traffic problems like kicking the can down the street. Anytime a secondary road or bypass road is built, development follows right behind which in turn increases the traffic demands on the new roads. Currently on Sukhumvit Road from Huay Yai to Sattahip it is getting more and more difficult to enter Sukhumvit at certain times of the day. Look at the amount of condos and housing projects being built in this area and the impact of the additional traffic. What do we do, install more and more traffic lights? The local and regional police departments must be part and parcel to the Master Plan or the roads will be built and the police come in after opening and close off “U” turns or whatever they dislike. Make them part of the solution. The business community as well as local residents should have a venue to express their views as well.
A reference was made to Boston’s “Big Dig” and how it outlasted everyone’s patience and funding. Can you imagine Sukhumvit being dug up for three to four years…minimum? Boston had the Central Artery, then Rte 128 ring road, then further out from the city the Rte 495 ring road was constructed. All the inter fill areas became developed and placed further burdens on the road system. All of this happened with Local and Regional planning in effect. How can Pattaya hope that a couple of tunnels will solve their problems? Making Sukhumvit a bit easier to navigate will ultimately put more and more pressure on a road that due to intense business infrastructure, cannot be widened without massive expense. Get the Thai universities involved in the planning process, major universities from around the world have great Regional Planning Departments that can be utilized.
If the decision is made to build the tunnel project it is imperative that mistakes in selecting contractors are avoided at all costs. Drive down Thepprasit Road today and see the results of three plus years of hiring a contractor that is totally unprepared to perform under city conditions. Award the contract to the lowest bidder? This is insanity unless there is a very strong prequalification statement, performance bonds, and very strong project management in place.
Let us all keep this dialog going in the interest of a better Pattaya.