Consultants recommend scrapping Buraphavithi-Pattaya Expressway project

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Consultants studying the proposed Buraphavithi-Pattaya Expressway have recommended that the 50-billion-baht project that has enraged residents along its planned route be scrapped.

Project advisor Kerati Kijmanawat on Jan. 25 chaired the fourth and final public hearing into the 68-kilometer highway linking the Chalermmahanakorn Expressway in Bangkok’s Bang Na District with Sukhumvit Road, Highway 7 and Highway 36 in Chonburi.

An artist’s rendering of what the Buraphavithi-Pattaya Expressway might have looked like during construction.An artist’s rendering of what the Buraphavithi-Pattaya Expressway might have looked like during construction.

After 18 months of study, consultants Index International Group Co., Asian Engineering Consultants Co. and Enrich Consultants Co. concluded that not only do neighboring residents oppose it, but the highway likely would be a money loser.

“The financial return from the project is estimated to be low and many residents along the way do not want it so we think it might not be worthwhile to proceed,” Kerati told the more than 1,000 people that crowded into Sriracha’s Chabang Phrachakhom Pavilion.

Plans called for construction of a six-lane expressway from Buraphavithi following the route of current Highway 34 with bypasses constructed in Chonburi, Sriracha and Laem Chabang. The work on what is now considered the Nongkham-Laem Chabang Highway would have allowed drivers coming from Nongkham to turn right into Sriracha and Pattaya-bound drivers from Laem Chabang to use a new U-turn bridge under the Nongkham-Laem Chabang Highway.

Plans also called for a doubling of the existing four lanes, with toll booths added at Bangpra, Nongkham and Pong. Start of construction had been eyed for next year.

Eight different routes were suggested, but residents said they feared that any plans would have dumped even more traffic on to Sukhumvit Road by placing an off ramp near the Big C supermarket on Sukhumvit Road.

Resident opposition leader Montri Atichakaro noted that the third public hearing drew 500 people – more than fit at the auditorium – setting off a protest requiring the police to quell. In the end, residents agreed to submit their written petition to the Expressway Authority of Thailand (EXAT).

Montri said he was pleased to hear consultants agreed to recommend to the EXAT that the project be killed.

Prajan Atsawutmangkun, another of the opponents, said he came out because the construction would have passed right through the middle of the house he shares with his elderly parents. He also complained that vetting of the entire project had not been transparent enough, with many affected residents unaware of the public hearings.

EXAT Deputy Governor Lertsak Chingharanon said the project was begun by the former Yingluck Shinawatra government in June 2013 to ease traffic on highways 3, 7 and 36 caused by tourism in Pattaya and exports at Laem Chabang Pier.

Keerati said the Buraphavithi-Pattaya Expressway could have eased eastbound traffic congestion and reduced travel times, but the financial gain would have been low. Instead, he said, the military-led government should focus on upgrades to existing infrastructure, such as expanding existing motorways and surface roads.