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Massive jam on new expressway draws flak

LTA to make road and traffic flow adjustments to ease congestion

]SINGAPORE] The Republic's costliest expressway to date, the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE), got off to a rough start yesterday, as a bad jam starting in the morning left many motorists fuming.

While some blamed insufficient and confusing signage, most felt that inadequate filter lanes caused choke points, resulting in traffic backing up.

A lawyer who declined to be named called the MCE a "massive failure" after it took him an hour and a half to get to work in the CBD area yesterday morning.

"Normally I take the AYE, cut into ECP and exit at Central Boulevard which goes to Shenton Way, and it takes about 20 minutes. Today, it was massively jammed.

" I had to compete with the heavy vehicles going to Marina South, the cargo vehicles going to the PSA area, in a two-lane exit," he said.

"Many Shenton Way workers are still on vacation (yesterday). Heaven forbid when they get back to work on Jan 2."

Another lawyer, Peter Madhavan said there was a lack of signage that clearly spelt out where or what landmark buildings new roads such as the Marina Coastal Drive will lead to.

"There should be signs saying where those new roads lead, which buildings they go to. What's Marina Coastal Drive? Where does it go?"

One motorist, who declined to be named, said there were already bad jams when he exited the MCE at 8.15 am yesterday to get to the Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC), and that it took him half an hour to get there.

"Normally, it only takes five minutes to get to MBFC from the old exit," he said. "By 10.30 am I could see from my office at MBFC that traffic at the Central Boulevard exit was really bad."

He noted that there were "multiple choke points after exiting the MCE into the MBFC area, all within a short distance of each other. MCE traffic into CBD from both east and west is ending up at these multiple choke points. The situation calls for urgent resolution. No serious financial centre can countenance such major traffic congestion."

The $4.3 billion, 5km MCE, which opened on Sunday, will serve as the main expressway connecting traffic travelling between the east and the west. It connects the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) and the East Coast Parkway (ECP) to the Ayer Rajah Expressway (AYE).

Common reasons cited for slow traffic include motorists' lack of familiarity with how the MCE connects with other roads and expressways, as well as road signs that were confusing or unclear.

In a statement yesterday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that traffic in the MCE tunnel has generally been smooth flowing. But it acknowledged there had been "traffic congestion and tail-backs at certain locations as motorists adjust to the new expressway and road network configuration".

LTA said that some westbound motorists on the ECP did not enter the MCE directly from the ECP near Fort Road, but instead proceeded along Sheares Bridge into the city area before heading out to the MCE, thereby adding to the traffic in the city.

There was also congestion along some key roads at the Marina South area as many motorists chose to enter the CBD using the MCE exits that lead to Central Boulevard, LTA said.

It said that it will be making road and traffic flow adjustments to ease congestion. For instance, a short stretch of Central Boulevard will be immediately converted from two lanes to four lanes, to facilitate better traffic flow into and along Central Boulevard toward Shenton Way.

More temporary signs at key approaches will be put up to alert motorists of the road network changes and the best way to get to their destination. It will also put out travel advisories at more locations, and on radio, to guide motorists.

LTA said that traffic wardens will continue to be deployed to help direct motorists, even though some said this slowed traffic more as motorists stopped to ask for directions.

But one motorist, Fanny Leong, who commutes from Dover to her workplace at Changi, said it was a "smooth ride" when she got on the MCE at 6am yesterday as there was very little traffic.

When announcing the MCE's scheduled opening on Dec 29, the LTA had said that with traffic currently using the ECP channelled to the MCE, these changes "will free up valuable land space in the city centre currently occupied by the ECP and allow for future development of the downtown at Marina South".

LTA said that the MCE will link motorists directly to the heart of downtown Marina South through new connections with Central Boulevard, Marina Boulevard and Maxwell Road. "This will also enhance the overall quality of the downtown at Marina South as a live-work-play precinct," LTA said on Nov 13.