A bridge across the Chao Phraya River, between Ratchawong Road and Tha Din Daeng Road that was proposed 14 years ago to ease traffic has failed to win public support. With Bangkok about to get more subways, residents say it is about time the BMA ditched this archaic plan. Apichart JinakuL
The debate over a project to construct a new bridge over the Chao Phraya River and link Ratchawong Road with Tha Din Daeng Road has been ongoing for more than a decade, with more people opposing than supporting it.
The latest development came on March 8 when people living in communities that will possibly be affected by the project were invited to a seminar presented by the consultancy hired to do the job to hear details about it.
Most participants pointed to the need to terminate the project, initiated in 2004 when the Office of the Land Traffic System Management approved a Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) proposal to carry out a survey and design for four new bridges across the river.
The four bridges approved at the time included one at Kiakkai Intersection, one to connect Lat Ya Road with Maha Phruttharam Road, one to connect Chan Road with Charoen Nakhon Road, and a fourth linking Ratchawong Road with Tha Din Daeng Road.
With that approval, the BMA signed a contract with Tesco Consultant Co worth 39.8 million baht to design the Ratchawong Road-Tha Din Daeng Road bridge. The work was completed in 2011.
The BMA later hired Pre Development Consultant Co to conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) study for the construction project at a cost of 7.56 million baht.
The company began its work on Aug 3 last year and was expected complete it by March 30.
The study results will be submitted to the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning (Onep) for approval.
Krisadarak Pharattanakul, assistant project manager from Pre Development Consultant Co, said the plan requires public participation in the EIA study.
The seminar held on March 8 was a second one, which was aimed at introducing the project to concerned parties and gauging their opinions on it. The first one was conducted on Oct 19 last year.
Speaking at the March 8 seminar, Saowalak Suriyamongkol, a resident in the Tha Din Daeng-Khlong San community, said the idea of constructing this new bridge was approved more than a decade ago, which might be a little outdated now electric rail system developments are in place and more lines are in the pipeline, such as the Blue and the Purple lines that will run through the Ratchawong area.
“Why don’t the authorities focus on supporting further developing the rail system instead of spending a substantial amount on a new bridge?” she asked.
The planned location of the new Chao Phraya bridge is in a zone containing several historic places that could be adversely affected by the project, said Ms Saowalak.
“The EIA report [we were told about] contained a lot of advantages the new Chao Phraya bridge has to offer. But how much will it actually benefit efforts to improve the flow of traffic, as the new bridge will only have two lanes?” she asked.
Despite the report’s claim the bridge would not cause dust pollution, it is common knowledge that such construction work always produces this result, she said, adding the BMA had better promote the use of public transportation rather than try to drum up support for the bridge.
Siriporn Phummani, a resident of the Taksin area, said the bridge is designed to be small but with sizeable pillars. Moreover, no information has been provided showing much these huge posts will impact tide and boat navigation.
She viewed the project’s design, in which the traffic lanes will run above a walkway, as impractical given the foreseen dust and air pollution, as well as the noise, which will affect pedestrians.
There is no proof the bridge’s design will help mitigate these problems, she said, adding that in conclusion the project is likely to do more harm than good.
Aside from these two critics, there has been an organised attempt by residents to protest against the project.
It has been led by Chusilp Sotthipridawong, a 53-year-old businesswoman in the Ratchawong area.
The campaign has been supported so far by 1,763 people, who have signed a petition demanding the BMA reconsider the plan.
Sumet Lerttantisunthon, who was also at the recent seminar, appeared to be a minority voice supporting the project. In his view, the current number of bridges over the river is not enough to cope with rising traffic.
The Ratchawong Road-Tha Din Daeng Road bridge will be a new option for commuters who have to cross the river regularly, since the rail transport system has yet to cover all areas of the city.
“From my experience of working in the Asok area, which is accessible by both the BTS Skytrain and the MRT underground train service, which were touted to help ease road traffic, congestion on the roads remains as heavy as ever,” he said.
This is because the electric rail system has yet to cover all areas of Bangkok, so people must still rely on their cars, he added.
The metal Ratchawong Road-Tha Din Daeng Road bridge has been designed in a double-decker format, said Mr Krisadarak, adding that the upper level will feature two traffic lanes 10 metres wide.
The lower level will serve as a pedestrian bridge and bicycle lanes and will measure 12m in width, he said.
The bridge will be 450m long, and include a 100m-long ramp on the Ratchawong Road side and a 120m-long ramp at the Tha Din Daeng Road end, he said.
The estimated cost of construction is 995 million baht, he said, adding the project will not require any land expropriation.
Deputy Bangkok governor Chakkaphan Phewngam responded to the project’s opponents by saying it is designed to help ease traffic on existing Chao Phraya bridges, including Phra Pok Klao Bridge and Sathon Bridge.
He assured them that the EIA study would address all their concerns, including whether it is a worthwhile investment vis-a-vis the anticipated benefits in terms of traffic management, and also in consideration of the negative impact on historical places in nearby areas.
“There have been some people attempting to only guard their own interests by distorting information about the bridge project and spreading wrong information to provoke protests against it,” he said.
He dismissed rumours that, for instance, the bridge’s construction was due to be completed by the end of this year, saying a plan has yet to be drafted.