It beggars belief how much money is about to be spent on such a development, especially in light of the fact that the road will have no impact at all on easing traffic in and around Phuket Town or over the steep hills where tour vehicles often fall off the road.
It is interesting to note that every Phuket Governor in office is involved in the announcement or rolling out of a multi-billion-baht mega-project, no matter how short is their term as Governor of Phuket. Governor Chamroen had the chance to be involved in this project just weeks before his term draws to a close on Sept 30.
The B5.5bn expressway is to include four lanes each way with a separate lane on each side for motorcycles and an independent track alongside in both directions specifically dedicated to bicycles. On paper and in CGI, it looks beautiful, but it must be placed in context beside the deafening silence from local officials about lethal state of Phuket’s existing road infrastructure
In terms of construction efficacy, we must keep in mind that the expressway announcement came as the Sam Kong Underpass passed well over a year beyond its initial completion date, with work still to be done. (See story here)
In terms of repairs to major roads, we also must keep in mind took more than 10 years to finally level out the dangerous warped road surface at the bottom of the very steep hill on the road between Patong and Karon – probably the most travelled road in Phuket by tourists renting motorbikes.
While one would hope that such extravagant funds would first be allocated to improving the current diabolical state of road safety in Phuket, without putting any gloss on our hopes, the simple reality is: fat chance.
Phuket’s governing authorities couldn’t even spend B2.4 million on a roundabout where last year alone five motorists died and 36 motorists were injured in road accidents without receiving the funds from a UK-based road-safety charity, the Safer Roads Foundation. And that black spot, even in the middle of the old government quarter in Phuket Town, was not even a blip on The Phuket News’ radar as a dangerous site. (See story: here)
Roadworks along Srisoonthorn Rd have already killed unsuspecting motorists, and residents in nearby Baan Ya are plugging sandbags in giant potholes to prevent more accidents in their area.
This is not to discount the deadly driving habits of Phuket motorists themselves, which together with the current state of the roads, is strong evidence for the Darwinian theory of each species testing the boundaries of survival.
In Phuket, no matter how well the roads are designed and what safety features are installed, they mean nothing if the appalling driver behaviour continues, as evidenced with the deadly accidents in Chalong this week.
No one will deny that Phuket is in dire need of a secondary road network, probably now more than ever, but one suspects that the only publicly available reason for spending so much money on such a road harks back to the chaos caused by the Thalang riots which stifled traffic along Thepkrasattri Rd, resulting in scores of tourists missing their flights and one man dying while being transferred between hospitals by ambulance.
Obviously, in the eyes of the powers that be, such an embarrassment should never happen again.