Expressway’s cursed divider fence

About Nu 269,550 was spent on replacing damaged fencing this year

Thromde: Unable to recover the cost of the damaged green iron mesh fencing along the 6.2km Babesa-Thimphu expressway, the thromde is planning to replace the double fencing with a single fencing that would run through the middle of the divider.

Thromde’s engineering division officials said they would try it out at a particular stretch in Olakha to see its effectiveness and seek feedback from the public.

“If we receive good feedback, we’ll remove the double iron mesh fencing and put a single lane along the entire expressway,” engineering division’s head of urban roads and drainage section, Sangay Wangdi, said.

With at least one vehicle crashing along the expressway every week, damage to the iron mesh was rampant, said officials.  On an average, about five panels or 12m of iron mesh get damaged every time a vehicle crashes.

Even with speed limit signs at regular intervals, speeding is the leading cause of accidents on the expressway, traffic police say.

Until November this year, 62 motor vehicles crashed on the expressway, causing one death and 26 injuries.  Last year, 65 accidents were recorded, almost half the number in 2011, where 107 cases were reported.

Besides being difficult to recover the damage costs, officials said there were safety issues as well with the existing fencing. “It’s dangerous for drivers and pedestrians,” said Sangay Wangdi.

Thimphu thromde took charge of the expressway from the roads department in July 2011.

In case of accidents that also involve damage to public property, traffic officials said an official from the thromde’s engineering division is called to assess and estimate the cost of damage.  “We issue the seized documents, only after the offenders are given a clearance letter by the thromde,” traffic superintendent of police, lt. col. Passang Dorjee said.

Thromde officials said, when an infrastructure is damaged by vehicles, the person can either pay the estimated amount to the thromde, or repair it themselves within a certain timeframe. “We usually give them a week’s time to repair the damages, but it never happens,” Sangay Wangdi said.

Offenders usually asked for time extension and hardly repaired the damaged structure, especially the iron mesh, said officials. “With no road inspectors, it’s difficult to monitor each individual,” an official said.

The iron mesh costs about Nu 1,797 a metre, while electric poles cost Nu 75,000 each, including costs of fittings, cables and labour.

Last year, the thromde replaced about 200m of iron mesh. About 150m was replaced this year, which cost the municipality about Nu 269,550. “The total collection this year to date is about Nu 227,000, which also includes the cost of electric poles,” Sangay Wangdi said.

With offenders not willing to take responsibility, Thromde officials said there should be stringent regulations in place, or it will do away with the iron mesh.

Following such issues, officials said they sought other alternatives, such as replacing the iron mesh with concrete blocks. “But it would cost us about Nu 18M, which was very expensive,” Sangay Wangdi said. “We don’t know why it was decided in the first place to have the iron mesh fencing, which has become very problematic now.”

Thromde officials said there were also cases where damages go unreported on many occasions. “Just about two weeks ago, an electric pole was hit by a vehicle near the Bhutan Oil distributor junction,” an official from the thromde’s electrical section said. “In such cases, all we can do is inform traffic police and that’s it.”

The official said that at least an electric pole is damaged every month in the city due to vehicle crashes.

Of the 66,430 vehicles in the country, Thimphu had more than 35,000 cars registered in the dzongkhag, as of last year.  From 885 crashes throughout the country, until November this year, Thimphu reported 623 motor vehicle crashes, traffic police records show.

With a fatality rate of 15 deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles, which is one of the highest in the region, Bhutan committed in 2011 to reduce the rate to five per 10,000 vehicles by 2020.

By Kinga Dema

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