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Feature Article of Saturday, 4 February 2012

Columnist: Blukoo-Allotey, Johnny

The Short Rise and Unbroken Fall of the Tetteh Quarshie Interchange:

A Case for Its Revival.

Ours is a country with a people who tie infrastructural development to specific regimes, so I will start by saying that the Tetteh Quarshie interchange was built and commissioned in the early years of Kufuor’s NPP government amidst considerable political fanfare, to the chagrin of its political opponents. Built to cure the nightmarish traffic in the then outmoded Tetteh Quarshie Circle, it never really lived up to that promise as the development of the major arteries that lead to and from it, such as the Legon Road, Spintex Road and the motorway extension were not finished in tandem with the interchange. However with the spirited completion of the afore mentioned arteries, especially the irritating Spintex Road by the Mills led NDC administration, the matter of poor traffic flow in that area should be put to rest soon. Should be, but several niggling things militate against the efficient and full benefits that all the investment in these roads should bring.

To ensure the attainment of maximum benefits from this interchange and its arteries, Accra’s governing institution, the Accra Metropolitan Authority (AMA) and the Ghana Police Service must immediately summon their considerable muscle, and without discrimination or political consideration, intervene in the ongoing rapid entrenching of wrongly acquired ‘rights’ by pedestrians, commuters, hawkers and drivers. Otherwise, the Tetteh-Quarshie Exchange area, will, in the next six to twelve months, become an area of institutionalized lawlessness and fail to achieve the purpose for which it was built.

To do this the AMA and the Police must realize that in their role as managers/watchmen of our capital, their jobs are not nine to five ones. They must work tirelessly round the clock to ensure that order is restored to this area. To illustrate the problems that beset Tetteh Quarshie, I must rely on examples. I may bore you. But, lay in matters relating to city management, it’s my only option.

PEDESTRIANS: Recklessly cross roads in this area without regard to oncoming vehicles. But do you blame them? No. I’ll give examples. Several metres of the parallel metal fencing that stretches between Association School Junction and Shiashie Junction have been wrecked mainly by recklessly driven cars and trucks. When this metal wall was unbroken, it ensured that pedestrians crossed only at designated zebra crossings. It worked well. Pedestrians went 50 to 100 metres backward or forward to these crossings, waited for the green light and crossed. Even for two years when the lights did not work, order prevailed. Pedestrians and motorists struck a balance. Several portions of these barriers have been destroyed by vehicles over the years leaving huge gaps in this once useful ‘wall’ and people randomly and dangerously cross this road, jaywalk and endanger themselves and motorists.

What will it take to replace these barriers and put signs up which encourage and ensure that pedestrians cross at these safe points? The worrying thing is that many pedestrians think it is their right to cross any portion of road they chose and that vehicles must defer to them! Regularly one has to stop in the middle of the roundabout to allow startled pedestrians, (who shouldn’t be there in the first place) to cross. But do zebra crossings exist? Yes, in theory, No in practice. The paint markings of these zebra crossings have been obliterated by wear and tear.

Can’t we ensure that these markings are always clear to pedestrians and motorists to ensure their mutual safety? Whoever is responsible for street markings and signage must immediately ensure that streets and pedestrian crossings are immediately re-marked and signs put up. AMA must introduce signs which insist that people cross at zebra crossings only. Can’t we introduce Belisha beacons at these crossings to ensure that drivers slow down and STOP! for pedestrians at these crossings? I admit, a lot of education is required in the small matter of zebra crossings in Ghana, but we can start here, at Tetteh Quarshie. Were the practice of; regularly replacing damaged metal fences, regularly re-marking zebra crossings, introducing Belisha beacons (and ensuring that they work) and fixing clear signs which insist/warn people to use zebra crossings only, adopted, introduced and enforced, we would be on course to sanitizing that area. In addition, AMA may initially have to deploy guards to whip people into line. AMA must stop people crossing the road anywhere and anyhow they choose, especially in the roundabout and randomly at the bus-stop areas behind, in front of the mall and at Kufuor junction.

10 years after Salifu Amankwa, whose unorthodox and barbaric methods brought order to Kwame Nkrumah Circle, left that area, order prevailed. The merest innocent infractions by ignorant pedestrians on no-go areas were frowned upon and corrected immediately by fellow pedestrians and motorists. It can be done. It must be done to restore law and order and save lives and limbs. This must be coupled with public education in the form of flyers, radio announcements etc.

TAXIS: When taxis get to the two bus-stops opposite each other behind the mall (ie the Spintex Road bit), they stop suddenly and, oblivious to and/or disdainful of traffic behind them start reversing into these bus-stops to park, dust their cars and wait for passengers! It’s mad, but our police and AMA by their inaction have let this patent flouting of our road regulations persist and become the norm. If this wrong practice is not stopped immediately it will be impossible to remedy it in future. Illegal driving practices are becoming more calcified by the day but AMA and our police seem oblivious to this. AMA and Ghana Police, act now! Soon, and mark my word, these taxi drivers will start washing their cars at these bus-stops! Also with time, they will claim these bus-stops as their stations (“taxi-ranks”) and prevent other motorists from stopping there! One evening almost two years ago I stopped at one of the bus-stops and was told “aha y3 station”, i.e “this is a station”.

Strangely and conveniently AMA’s guards have limited their jurisdiction to the bus-stop at ‘Kufuor Junction’ and other quiet and problem free portions of this interchange. Here they senselessly and insensitively clamp faulty vehicles whose owners have sensibly parked/pushed them into the bus-stop or onto the shoulders of the roads, to avoid obstructing traffic. Why don’t they tread these two bus-stops behind the mall to clamp taxis? They can make an illegal tidy profit for themselves and the AMA clamping cars and extorting monies from errant drivers there! That AMA, is where the problem is, not the relatively trouble and traffic free Kufuor Junction! Are they afraid to go there and face the wrath of these taxi drivers emboldened by the absence of any regulation, controls or authority in that area? AMA and the police must immediately meet with these drivers, point out the unacceptability of these and other practices too many to enumerate here, educate them, lay down the law and then using the considerable coercive state powers at their disposal, quickly enforce a stoppage to the use of bus-stops as taxi stations and other practices such as illegal U-turns which obstruct traffic flow.

HAWKERS: Dominate the landscape. Initially restricted to a few ‘Space to Space’, i.e. phone card dealers at these bus-stops (who should have been stopped early on); new and used clothes and shoes, toiletries, fast food, vegetables, telephones and electronic gadgets are now purveyed at the bus-stops and on almost all the pavements around the mall. There’s little space left for pedestrians, the intended beneficiaries of the pavements. Inch by inch, these hawkers and traders are pushing pedestrians off the streets and on to the roads. If we must allow hawking, can’t we regulate it? There are huge swathes of land in the vicinity of the mall. If we must permit hawking, can’t we zone these hawkers into an area and allow them to operate within strictly designated times say 9.00a.m to 8.00p.m, register them and enforce strictly the terms under which they are allowed to operate? Must our city authorities look on helplessly whilst the pavements are steadily taken over? Once timid and unsure, these hawkers have by reason of our authority’s indolence grown wings. Now that they have acquired their own turfs, we may have to plead with them to relocate and as is the practice, compensate financially them when AMA and police finally decide to act. Soon, and mark my word again, we’ll have an Okaishie-like situation at Tetteh Quashie. According to AMA, hawking is not allowed in Accra. Why then do AMA and our police allow multinational companies like MTN and Vodafon to ‘clothe’ thousands of vendors of their products to advertise and hawk on Accra’s streets in MTN’s yellow and Vodafon’s red branded flak jackets? A small digression in the scheme of things, but if these powerful companies are allowed indirectly to hawk and advertise on our streets, then the struggling small table top trader and hawker must have the same license. At Danquah Circle there are AMA signs which ban push trucks from the roads and pavements. Are these any different from Coca-Cola’s and Fan-Milk’s vending carts? Discrimination? What about those flag bearing poles owned by telephone companies advertising their products that stretch for miles along our pavements? Isn’t it advertising/hawking on our pavements? Equal laws for the rich and the poor remember? Or? AMA must confront this discriminatory practice of allowing powerful multinationals to advertise and hawk on our pavements through their, flags, umbrellas, flak-jackets and branded bus-stops with sales points etc., whilst forcibly chasing and illegally seizing the wares of poor, barely surviving, hustling hawkers. AMA stop being blind to this illegality. STREET LIGHTS: The whole interchange area, Shangri-La Hotel, Shiashie stretch is pitch-black at night. Very few street lights work. Given the practice of indiscriminate crossing of streets in the area, the risk of pedestrians being struck by a car is increased. Must there be a serious accident in which a car/truck runs over pedestrians in the darkness, lives are lost, politicians go to the scene with TV cameras, shed fake tears, ‘console’, and give cash donations to the families of the dead and injured before the lights are fixed? Functioning street lights will reduce the likelihood of cars running over pedestrians and further reduce the incidence of crimes such as muggings. Fix the lights, period! It’s not rocket science. As Ghanaians are wont to say; “What koraa” will it take to fix the street lights?

THE ACCRA MALL: Especially blamed for the human and vehicular congestion in that area, it backs up traffic for miles onto the Spintex Road and the motorway extension particularly at weekends when people throng there. Alleged to be a triumph of political power over rational urban planning, it must take its share of flak for the misery motorists and pedestrians endure due to where its located. Our city authorities, urban planners and mall managers (Broll) must look at banning mass participation events in the mall which bring hordes of youth spilling into the streets near the mall, re-examine, and if need be, re-design the entry and exit points to and from the mall with a view to improving traffic flow, and pay regard to small, important details regarding traffic management that will ensure order and smooth traffic flow in and around the mall.

I’ve bawled enough.

Johnny Blukoo-Allotey,

Accra.

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