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Lagosians gear up for six-month repairs on Third Mainland Bridge

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• Despite partial closure, 75% regular users to ply bridge, says Sanwo-Olu
• Be patient, cooperate with traffic managers, RTEAN urges members

It was a dress rehearsal yesterday, on the Third Mainland Bridge, of the hassles to come in the next six months, as the longest bridge in West Africa will be partially shut for repairs begining today and for 180 days by the Federal Ministry of Works to fix worn out expansion joints.
 
By midday, a viral post by Felix Adebayo on Twitter had spent panic shivers down the spine of motorists. The tweet read: “Please avoid Third Mainland Bridge into the island if you can. It is heavily blocked at the moment. This is how it has been since Monday and this is how it will be for another six months. Meanwhile, Costain into the island is not better either.”
 
The traffic was hellish all through the day from UNILAG waterfront inward the island due to ongoing diversion being put up ahead of repairs at Adeniji end of the bridge. It was the same at the alternative route in Onipanu, Jibowu, Mushin and Ojuelegba yesterday.

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Despite several assurances by the Lagos State government that alternative routes had been fixed, there was growing apprehension among motorists over the gridlock the partial closure would bring.
 
Thinking of the impending frustration, a motorist on Twitter had wondered aloud why the government would approve the closure of the bridge when the alternative, Eko Bridge, is still closed and Funsho Williams Avenue has been overtaken by articulated trucks.
 
She said: “With no relief in sight, more misery is now being added to the already frustrating transport situation in Lagos. Eko Bridge has been closed since March with no sign of repairs going on there. Why is the government suffering us like this?”
 
She got a response from the Twitter handle @LASTMA GM: “Eko Bridge closure was an unplanned necessity. It is unsafe for traffic use. Parts for repairs needed to be ordered for after assessment of damage, but COVID-19 disrupted plans for parts delivery. So, for our safety, the bridge cannot be opened until repairs are carried out. Please bear with government.”
 
As the Third Mainland Bridge repairs begin today, one question would be uppermost in the minds of the millions of Lagosians crisscrossing the lagoon from the mainland to the island and back. It is: ‘how will I cope with this long closure?’
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For Ayomipo Adesiyun, “Without logistic businesses, Lagos will be in a state of topsy-turvy. Government must support and encourage the few ones still thriving while it immediately reviews its transport regulations like the ban on okada that forced start-ups like O-Pay and Gokada out of business. Government should help make our lives easier and support us so we can make daily living for Lagosians comfortable.”  Temitope Adesi still wonders why the government came up with the idea after citizens were just picking up their lives and businesses from a six-week lockdown.

“I understand that they are trying to maintain the bridge, but we had about two months of total lockdown and partial lockdown for some weeks more and it was never considered to carry out this repair when traffic on the roads was minimal. It is now when activities are back in full swing that they are willing to close down the bridge on the major link route between the island and the mainland.
 
“Thinking of the alternative route is even torture to the mind. What alternative means of transport is available apart from the roads? The waterways option is not reliable with frequent boat accidents. There is no effective train system and BRT buses are not enough for the population of Lagos. The next six months would be a terrible experience for many Lagosians. Thankfully, the pandemic has shown us we can do business activities over the internet, which many companies are already practicing,” he said.
 
Babatunde Kayode said: “It is a good thing to fix the bridge because of how dangerous it could be for us, but what plans has the government put in place to ensure smooth flow of traffic for the next six months? I spend an average of one hour thirty minutes getting to the office from Surulere passing through Western Avenue and I ask myself, Third Mainland Bridge has not been closed yet; what now happens when the bridge is closed?
 
“The only thing I will say is that the closure of the bridge is for good, but my fear is the planning. If the government is not making any plan to control the activities of truck and tanker drivers on the alternative routes, then the closure of the Third Mainland Bridge will be a disaster.”
 
Some road transport workers have warned passengers to brace up for the worst as many workers who may wish to use public transport may resume work by 1:00p.m. instead of 9/10:00a.m. Kamoru Gbadamosi, a transport operator in Oshodi, said the maintenance of the bridge would reduce the trips of buses, increase the cost of transport and leave many passengers stranded at bus stops, which will make many commuters resume work late.
 
“For the good of our passengers, I will advise those who will like to get to work before 12noon or 1:00p.m. from Friday to be at the bus terminal by 4:00a.m. to avoid stories that touch,” he said with a tone of sarcasm, adding that there was need for the government to review the 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. curfew as it will cause a great challenge to both commuters and drivers who may wish to leave home before cockcrow or stay back till late night.

But the Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, yesterday said despite the partial closure of the bridge, 75 to 80 per cent of road users who often ply the route would still be able to use it. Speaking when the Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) in Lagos, Olusegun Ogungbemide and State Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Adeyinka Fasiu Ayinla, paid him a courtesy visit, Sanwo-Olu said only 25 per cent of road users who often ply the route would need to use alternative routes.
 

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He, nonetheless, maintained that there would be no hiccups as the state government would deploy over 650 Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) officials to ensure free flow of traffic. This is apart from efforts to intensify rehabilitation of alternative routes, clear the waterways and ensure that additional jetties are operational to support the existing ones. Sanwo-Olu added that additional 600 buses would start plying routes like Abule – Egba, Alausa, Ikeja and Ebutte Metta by August.
 
Responding, Ogungbamide said 250 officers of the commission would also be deployed to control traffic on both the bridge and alternative routes. He added that since the bridge is a federal road, the onus is on the commission to give the partial closure a serious attention. Also speaking, Ayinla promised that his men would be fully on ground to provide adequate security for motorists and commuters on the bridge and the alternative routes.
 
Meanwhile, the Road Transport Employers Association of Nigeria (RTEAN), Lagos State chapter, appealed to its members and drivers yesterday to be patient and cooperate with traffic managers during the partial closure of the bridge. Alhaji Mohammed Musa, RTEAN state chairman, gave the plea in an interview with newsmen. Musa, who noted that there was no way the closure would not affect businesses of transport operators and others, said the closure was for the good of all.

According to him, transporters must do everything possible to be patient and cooperate with all traffic officers to ensure free flow of traffic.The RTEAN boss said: “All of us know how important the bridge is to us. We know there will be heavy traffic. In fact, it will be serious, but we have informed our members to be law-abiding. We have told our members to be patient and cooperate with Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA), Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), police and other law enforcement agencies.”He urged the union members and their employees to always drive with care and obey all the COVID-19 protocols as it relates to public transport in the state.

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