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More traffic congestion coming: is this progress?

Sun 2011-May-15 @ +08 03:59:15 am

The trees are making way…

At often-congested Green Lane (Jalan Masjid Negeri) in George Town, Penang, construction crews take apart a couple of old trees — a sight becoming more frequent around the city as hills and old roadside trees on grass verges are chopped up to make space for pricey houses, pricey flats and fancy offices.

A new road junction is coming…

Workers are reopening an old junction at Batu Green leading to Glugor Avenue. Soon, there will be a two-lane-wide exit to Green Lane, and one lane leading in. More than a decade ago, the junction had been sealed off, to ease traffic flow on Green Lane, and neighbourhood traffic diverted to the service road parallel to Green Lane and to Glugor Avenue.

It’s an old residential neighbourhood from the 1950s and 1960s, between Batu Lanchang and Bukit Dumbar on one side, and facing the middle-class Island Glades (Jalan Delima) estate off Green Lane on the other side. The neighbourhood is of small bungalows, semi-detached and terrace houses. Some of those facing Green Lane have been turned into used-car lots and offices.

Why the need, now, to pour two lanes of traffic into Green Lane, and allow Green Lane traffic in?

For the sake of these people …

Ready and waiting: five towers of flats, sitting on two floors of carparks, soon to be occupied. That’s anywhere between 600 and 1,200 cars flowing through the neighbourhood, wanting access to the rest of the island.

There are many obvious questions that arise from this situation, because it’s similar to that of other locations on the island and the mainland.

The most obvious is: how much space on the small island, or the narrow province, should be devoted to roads, to please not just motorists — car-owners, essentially, who demand a right to drive alone to work and back — but also property developers who will put pressure on politicians, knowing that buyers will not want flats that don’t allow them to drive straight on to main thoroughfares.

Two decades ago, when Green Lane was expanded from two lanes to four, city dwellers raised a hue and cry when the PWD wanted to chop down the row of old angsana trees between the Convent and the Ayer Itam Road junction: to dampen the public fury, the city changed the road alignment to place the angsana trees in the middle, as the divider. The old bungalows opposite the Free School gave up a strip of land instead.

Today the voice of the car-owner and driver, and the voice of big business, seems to be loudest.


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