No substitute for bridge crossing busy highway

Tuesday June 12, 2012

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2012/6/12/sarawak/11458389&sec=sarawak

By VANES DEVINDRAN
vanes@thestar.com.my

Clear and present danger: Students of SR Chung Hua Siburan use a pedestrian crossing to get to Siburan town on the other side of the Kuching-Serian highway. They are often accompanied by their teachers and parents. An overhead bridge (in the background) nearby has not been reconstructed after it was struck by a crane in February. — VANES DEVINDRAN / The Star

KUCHING: Though authorities have put up a pedestrian crossing as a temporary measure to help students of SR Chung Hua Siburan to safely cross the busy Kuching-Serian highway, it is still not enough to allay parents’ fear.

With the school break over, a group of mothers yesterday waited patiently for the traffic lights to turn red so they could cross the road to fetch their children.

Apparently, this has become a daily practice ever since the nearby overhead bridge got damaged after being struck by a crane on Feb 8.

All that is left of the overhead bridge, which had kept some 1,000 students safe from dangerous crossing before its destruction, is a concrete structure minus a fair portion of its suspended walkway which was ripped off in the Feb 8 incident.

One of the mothers who wished to be known only as Sabrina said she remained cautious even with the pedestrian crossing given the attitude of some drivers and riders.

“As long as my daughter is required to cross the highway without using the overhead bridge, I will not allow her to do it on her own.

“There have been near misses since the bridge was incapacitated all because of reckless drivers who want to beat the red light. I have seen with my own eyes even when the lights turn orange, vehicles would pick up speed instead of slowing down,” she told The Star.

She went on to say that the primary school children were still too young to cross the highway on their own even with the help of the traffic lights.

She said children being children, they might not be alert and could just wander across instead of waiting for the light to change.

“They are young and they cannot gauge if the vehicles are coming at them at a dangerous speed. I and the rest of the mothers are not prepared to take that chance and we will continue to cross over to fetch them ourselves,” she said.

Sabrina said in the past, she would sometimes allow her seven-year-old to cross the highway on her own via the overhead bridge.

She said this was because the bridge was safer.

She hoped the authorities concerned would delay no more and repair the damaged overhead bridge as soon as possible before anything bad happened.

Coincidentally, soon after the interview, Padawan Municipal Council chairman Lo Khere Chiang and PKR National vice-woman chief Voon Shiak Ni, along with representatives of the Public Works Department (JKR), met in front of the school to address the matter.

Lo said the bridge would be re-constructed to make it higher than the original height for taller vehicles to pass underneath it.

“The original height was 4.5m but JKR would be adding 1.5m to the new design so, in total, from the road to beneath the beam, it will be 6m in height,” he said.

He said tender would be out by the end of June and work should commence early July.

He revealed the budget for the re-construction would be RM350,000.

Lo explained that the delay was due to JKR having to re-tender the project as the initial price offer was too low.

“So even if the tender had been approved then, problems were expected to arise once the work commenced,” he added.

Nonetheless, he said, the school was also helping out to ensure their students cross over safely and teachers would often group those who were capable of leading the rest.

Voon, who highlighted the matter earlier, said she was glad Lo responded postively to working together on it.

“It doesn’t matter which political side we are in, the most important thing is the work gets done as soon as possible,” she said.

She said the overhead bridge had been left in its damaged state for four months already and the people were getting impatient.

“We understand that time is needed to do the tender but they should update the public. At least it will ease the anxiety. I think four months is a bit too long given that the bridge is a necessity that concerns the safety of the children,” she said.

Nevertheless, she lauded JKR for coming with the pedestrian crossing as a temporary measure.