IT WAS 9:30pm on Saturday. The U-loop at the Badda end of Hatirjheel had just been opened. We, two of us that day, having to go home, after all the day’s work at New Age, through Hatirjheel wanted to have a look at it. Although I live near the BTV Station in Dhaka and need to go to office, out from my home, through Hatirjheel to Bangla Motors, or Hatirpool, I could hardly notice the south U-loop of the Badda-Rampura end of Hatirjheel coming into a shape.
We asked the driver to take the Hatirjheel route. We crossed past all the bridges. As we neared the Hatirjheel end that opens into Pragati Sarani at Badda, there were fewer vehicles stuck in the opening, waiting for the traffic constable to waive a green signal to get across the road through a cut on the road divider to take a right turn towards the Rampura bridge. But the cut on the road divider should have been blocked if there had to be any meaning of the U-loop.
Minorly stuck at the signal, we thought, and discussed, that as the U-loop does not rise from Hatirjheel, the traffic personnel would need to stop vehicles trying to get on the main road from Hatirjheel to let vehicles approaching Badda from Rampura through and the other way round — to stop vehicles going to Badda from Rampura to allow vehicles from Hatirjheel on the main road. That is the normal everyday protocol of traffic control at that point, with the cut on the road divider and no U-loop. With a U-loop and the cut on the divider being blocked, the protocol had to be different.
We were disappointed as the traffic constable guarding the opening flagged for the vehicles to get across the road through the cut and take the right turn. We could not see the U-loop. But with the U-loop being there, probably a bit inconveniently farther southwards, the opening through the road divider for vehicles to get across is meaningless.
It was, however, a travel back home as usual, as it happened almost every night. The next day, the driver of the car that takes me to office said that the cut on the road divider at Badda had been closed and he had to ride the U-loop, which took some time.
After the day’s work at night, at 9:00pm, we, four of us that day, took the Hatirjheel route. We reached the Hatirjheel opening onto the main road at Badda in about 15 minutes. The cut on the road divider was blocked. All the vehicles coming from Hatirjheel were either slowed or stopped so that vehicles streaming in from Hatirjheel and Rampura all approaching Badda could get on Pragati Sarani. But it made no difference as it created a severe congestion at the point. It also just doubled the number of vehicles on the road from that point as all vehicles willing to take the right turn and all going straight from Rampura through to Badda had to go certain distance together as the U-loop is too far from the Hatirjheel end.
On the main road, approaching the U-loop opening, vehicles were moving bumper-to-bumper in the dazzling light that was arranged, probably, for the commissioning ceremony of the loop on Saturday. It was fun to look around at the excruciatingly slow speed that the car was moving. The loop and the surroundings all looked like a juggernaut, with almost everything moving, at regular intervals, but not actually going anywhere. It took 25 minutes to reach other side on the road where we left Hatirjheel to get on Pragati Sarani. The congestion ended at the end of the Rampura bridge, where, just before the TV Station, one road passed by Banasree.
It was a travel back home unusual, where we had to stay for 25 minutes more, than what it needed the day before, on the road and had to traverse more than a couple of kilometres that might have an academic importance but no practical purpose. The north U-loop at the Rampura end of Hatirjheel, connecting Banasree to Hatirjheel, eased the congestion at that point a lot. Before the commissioning of the north U-loop, the point had severe congestion after Hatirjheel road network had been commissioned. We should be glad that the planners had, finally, plans for the north U-loop, which carries vehicles of one road from one end over another to another end.
But the south U-loop, which carries vehicles of one road onto the right lane of another road where they would have, anyhow, landed, through a cut on the road divider without having to travel additional kilometres, which takes about half an hour, hardly comes as a riddance.
Any rehabilitation of traffic on the roads by means of flyovers, overpasses, underpasses, overbridges and the likes is to afford people some relief, which the north U-loop at the Rampura end of Hatirjheel could accomplish. But the south U-loop at the Badda end of Hatirjheel appears to have, so far, added to the sufferings through a nagging traffic congestion all the way much before the loop on a lane to much later the loop on the other lane of the single road.
It now means an added half an hour to my travel back home, every single night, unless I head straight from Bangla Motors to get on the flyover over Mouchack — which is Bangladesh’s first and probably the world’s second to have a traffic light signal; the other one is the Richmond Circle flyover in Bangalore which even closed to traffic at 8:30pm as the traffic constable had to go home — to take a left turn to get down on the DIT Road to Rampura. But the route usually offers a travel longer than the Hatirjheel route does, almost every day.
Vehicles headed for Badda from Rampura, which earlier could take a right turn into Banasree just before the Rampura bridge, are made to go straight to ride the U-loop and then get back to the point to a left turn. This has also burdened the road with more vehicles. An added travel time with an added travel of a couple of kilometres, but, of course, with irritation.
Hatirjheel has brought the ease over the Mouchak route and the Badda U-loop has come to negatively compensate for the ease gained to take it back what Mouchak route does — coming a full circle and back to square one.
Abu Jar M Akkas is deputy editor at New Age.