Friday, 17 January 2014

Peak-hour traffic on MCE 'generally smooth' now

By Royston Sim, The Straits Times, 16 Jan 2014

PEAK-HOUR traffic along the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) has been "generally smooth" and motorists are no longer avoiding it, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday.

The only exception, said LTA deputy chief executive Chua Chong Kheng, was the morning of Dec 30 - the first work day after it opened - when a combination of factors led to major jams on the MCE and its adjoining road network.

LTA figures show the average peak-hour traffic volume on the MCE and East Coast Parkway (ECP) has returned to levels seen on the ECP last October. Then, there was an average of 8,780 vehicles per hour travelling east on the ECP from 5.30pm to 7.30pm.

Since the MCE opened, there have been about 9,060 vehicles travelling east per hour during the evening peak - 5,470 on the MCE and 3,590 on the ECP.

Said Mr Chua: "The current smooth traffic conditions are not the result of motorists still avoiding the MCE."

He attributed the Dec 30 traffic snarls to several factors, including a bottleneck along Central Boulevard and a lack of familiarity with the $4.3 billion highway - the most expensive in Singapore to date.

Mr Chua noted that some drivers travelling west that morning did not turn into the MCE, but continued on the ECP and Sheares Avenue.

Many entered the Central Business District at Exit 3 via Central Boulevard instead of Exit 1 to Maxwell Road, adding to congestion along Marina Boulevard.

Motorists who were unfamiliar with the interim road network in the Marina South area also added to the congestion, he said.

The LTA took several steps to address the issue, including converting a short stretch of Central Boulevard from two to four lanes and adding 115 temporary signs. As drivers became familiar with the MCE, the situation improved.

Mr Chua acknowledged that the LTA could have done more in terms of signage to help minimise the congestion on Dec 30.

Turning to criticism of the MCE's design, he said comprehensive planning and traffic studies were done, with the findings validated by external consultants. He added: "While some motorists have pointed out possible design deficiencies, I want to assure the public that this is not the case."

On feedback that two lanes leading to the ECP from the MCE were insufficient, he said that some of the eastbound traffic was expected to continue using Sheares Bridge.

Traffic conditions in the past two weeks have shown that the provisions in place have been "sufficient", he said, noting that in the longer term, a three-lane connection to the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway is needed to meet development needs in the north-east.

On comments about a sharp left turn from the ECP into the MCE, he said the slip road complies with safety and geometrical standards, while the traffic tailback on Dec 30 was partly due to unfamiliarity with the changes.

As for keeping the ECP open while motorists familiarise themselves with the MCE, he said this was not possible as traffic from the ECP would conflict with that of the MCE, posing a safety issue.

Mr Chua also assured motorists that those who go on the MCE directly from the ECP and vice versa will not cross more Electronic Road Pricing gantries now compared to before the MCE was opened.

The LTA will draw from lessons learnt in the Dec 30 congestion, he said, adding: "We will be more mindful that even as motorists are informed about the changes beforehand, they may still be uncertain. We will look into this and try and do more to cater to this in future road openings."


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