By Gary Hatigeva
MEMBER of Parliament for Aoke/Langalanga and Chairman of the Bills and Legislation Committee Matthew Wale, has called for traffic lights to be put up at intersections where traffic is likely to be busy and heavy once the road project is completed.
Wale made the call as a supplementary question to his original questions to the Ministry of Infrastructure Development Minister during Parliament’s Question and Answer session yesterday.
The issue also made headlines in local forums online, where many questioned the safety status of the roads, as far as drivers and pedestrians are concerned especially, students.
Mr Wale stressed that it is vitally important for the ministry to immediately deal with the matter of traffic lights because if you go pass the road around the Kukum area and others in similar nature, from the improvements, a lot of sections have expanded in width.
He noted that the call must be taken into serious consideration because the road project once completed, there are sure chances that vehicles will run at much higher speed – and safety of pedestrians is most important.
Other members of Parliament interviewed after yesterday’s session shared that they have been contacted by many residents concerned about the safety of the intersection.
“Honiara is a busy town with a high volume of traffic needing to access the highway, including public buses, and the community is right to be concerned about the dangers of this intersection,” one government MP who asked not to be named said.
He shared that there are also an aging population living in areas exposed to high speed roads with many people relying on mobility aids, and many residents will for sure, be finding it difficult and challenging to cross the highway after the project is completed.
“Traffic lights are also a sign of the times for many towns that are growing. For Honiara, I think that time has come.”
Kukum and Bahai residents said they have been concerned for many years at the number of accidents at their intersection, however, they occur with bad roads and status that should have advantages of slowing down traffics and they fear that if nothing is done about the calls for traffic lights installation, the new roads might increase the chances for rates of accidents.
Also supporting the call for the installation of lights, Member of Parliament for Northeast Guadalcanal and Leader of the Independent group, Dr Derrick Sikua also called for the removal of the Kukum-junction bus stop, saying it is very risky and very dangerous.
“By looking at the situation, the bus stop at the junction going up to East Kola ridge needs to be removed immediately as it will create accident if it continues to be used
“If you’re turning to go up eastward from that junction, you would not be able to see the incoming vehicles that are westward bound because buses are blocking the view to make proper judgments as to when to cross over and when not to.
“And this is where having traffic lights and traffic signs boards are important, so pedestrians can make the right decisions when they move around these areas,” Sikua added.
In his response, the Minister for Infrastructure Development and MP for East Kwaio, Stanley Sofu explained that that in terms of the bus stop, it is a genuine point and that it is risky and will certainly cause accidents taking into account, safety.
In terms of traffic lights, the ministry is looking into reintroducing the lights and the ministry is taking into serious consideration this issue, but assured that the particular talked about bus stop is a temporary one, and added that it will be relocated once the road project completes.
Sofu said the ministry will be thoroughly engaging with the Honiara City Council and police to discuss this matter because the bus stop belongs to the City Council Authority.
“This is to ensure that the matter is dealt with, but note that the bus stop is temporary and should be relocated ones the road project is completed, and this will also include the installation of road signs for guide and directions of both drivers and pedestrians,” the MID Minister said.
In the early 90s, Honiara’s main market traffic used to have a traffic light, which according to many people who saw those things back then, really helped in both the flow of vehicles at the same time, movement of people crossing that road.
Other countries are sharing negative aspects of these systems while others are off the same view that lighting systems as such is one of the biggest solution to help ease the pressure of worst traffic like it is in some countries, which includes Solomon Islands.
As for the street and traffic signs, Minister Sofu further assured parliament that the ministry together with its relevant key stakeholders, are currently in thorough talks, finalizing all arrangement to ensure that after all phases of the road project are completed, signs and other related facilities are put in place.
However, the matter on traffic lights, the minister said it is part of the government’s long term plans to look into it and would also involved consultations and thorough discussions with key stakeholders, but assured that the government is taking the concern into serious consideration.