Safety And Access

We get questioned at times about whether our actions around road, bridge or jetty closures are absolutely necessary. I want to assure everyone that they are. These actions are not
18 Oct 2014 07:13
Safety And Access
The busy Victoria Parade road in the Suva CBD and The Koronubu Bridge in Ba.

We get questioned at times about whether our actions around road, bridge or jetty closures are absolutely necessary. I want to assure everyone that they are.

These actions are not taken lightly and if we have closed a structure or restricted access it is generally the last resort and done for very good reason.

Observers of FRA activities over the recent past will have seen that two of our main areas of focus are SAFETY and ACCESS.

So when we do close something it will be for safety reasons and we remain very mindful of restoring access as soon as possible

Take for example the closure of the Navisa Bridge in Koronubu, Ba. Yes it caused an inconvenience but we had to make the call in the interests of public safety.

Our job is to exercise good engineering judgment. In this instance the structure of the bridge was damaged by the large amount of debris flowing downstream, making it unsafe for buses and trucks.

It was the start of crushing season and we were acutely aware of the impact a lengthy closure could have so we ‘pulled out all the stops’ and within weeks the bridge was reopened.

In our line of work, there will be disruptions, there will be disturbances, and it will cause frustration and inconvenience at times. But as the programme of restoration of our roads bridges and jetties progresses these instances will get less and less.

Another example of a project to improve safety is the renovation of the Labasa Bus stand. At the request of the Labasa Town Council, discussions were held around improving the surface of the existing bus stand.

FRA was also asked to look at the bus stand layout and how the safety and operation of the area could be improved particularly for pedestrians.

MWH Global and Fulton Hogan Hiways Joint Venture jointly undertook the design that captured all this and will see the Labasa bus stand with an improved concrete surface and a separated pedestrian area that will significantly improve pedestrian safety.

While one of our priorities is to improve the physical condition of the network, in doing so we also need to improve the safety standards and that is not always about building more infrastructure.

What we try to do is improve the whole road environment in order to reduce road safety risk, as part of the safe system approach.

The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 clearly outlines the areas of responsibility for key stakeholders. The Fiji Roads Authority in particular is tasked with safer roads.

In line with this, FRA allocates resources to programs like transportation studies, village treatments, safety audits, blackspot reduction, route action plans, and mass action plans.

We can’t cover them all in one article but for this week let’s look at Transportation Studies.

Access – Future Planning

Earlier this year FRA published the Greater Suva Transportation Strategy covering Lami to Nausori.

A transportation study looks at a particular area, analyses the needs in terms of transportation, assesses the issues and barriers to effective transportation and develops solutions to remedying defects and removing barriers.

The study identified some key issues and solutions. The report also identified 137 priority projects for consideration over a 15 year implementation period.

As can be seen from the table, these holistic studies incorporate physical improvements to road infrastructure but also address non-asset solutions like better enforcement of existing regulations or improvements to existing regulations.

For instance many people may not appreciate that one of the greatest contributors to congestion in the Suva CBD is taxis that are ‘roaming’ looking for fares rather than parked at taxi bases.

Do we build wider roads with more lanes to accommodate this activity? Or do we look for a better way for taxis to efficiently ply their trade?

Looking out further, what should we be thinking about to reduce or contain congestion on the Nausori – Suva corridor?

Some projects are already underway like widening of roads to 4 lanes and upgrading traffic signals and making them ‘smart’ so they recognize morning and afternoon peak flows.

Longer term solutions may include bus priority lanes or even dedicated separated bus rapid transit corridors like we see in some overseas cities.

These sorts of solutions require careful planning and analysis to ensure they deliver their objectives in a cost efficient way.

And as always there is never one single solution. We need to develop and implement the right package of solutions at the right time to get the best outcomes.

Next week we will look outside the main centres and what we are doing with safety audits, blackspot reduction and village treatments. Until then, Stay Safe.

– Neil Cook is the CEO of the Fiji Roads Authority. This is his regular column which will be published by the Fiji Sun on Saturdays.


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