I travelled the entire 14 kilometre brand new George Walker Bush highway barely 24 hours after it was formally inaugurated by President John Evans Atta Mills. My intention was first and foremost to have a taste of the new travel leisure in town.
From the Mallam junction to the Accra Mall, the straight route which previously would have taken me an hour and a half now took me just 23 minutes. I could not believe that I was driving on that once-upon-a-time chaotic and irritating stretch.
By all standards, it is a beautiful highway for which I would want to add my little voice to that of the many Ghanaians who have applauded the people and the Government of the United States of America for providing the entire $55.7million funding for the project.
However, beautiful as it is, I did my return journey on that highway with my heart in my hands. Wow, the huge indiscipline that has already crept onto the highway is incredulous. We need to move with speed to check the recklessness that seems to be entrenching on this new road.
I could not believe that on such a highway, people would risk their lives and run across from one side of the road to the other crossing six lanes of fast moving vehicles. Men and women, young and old were running and climbing walls and metal barriers.
Meanwhile, the beautiful overhead bridges specially constructed to get people from one side to the other are left unused. How undisciplined can we be as a people?
I thought the Lapaz end of the highway was unruly with pedestrians all over the place. It was when I got to the Abeka junction that it dawned on me that if the authorities concerned do not move in very fast we will have disasters on our hands on the George Bush highway.
The Abeka junction seems to be the most chaotic point on the highway. The location of the commuter bus or “tro-tro” station on the Abeka side of the road and so close to the highway will contribute to an explosion waiting to happen. Some people who are alighting are either crossing over to the other side, or running from the other side to catch their “tro-tro”. Then also is the make-shift mini market that has sprung up around the station.
On this same stretch, what could be fatal is the way “tro-tro” drivers are making sudden stops using the outer lanes to pick up or drop off passengers. What is even worse is that as soon as they are done with their “business”, regardless of what speed a vehicle in the same lane behind them is travelling, they start off without the courtesy to signal to other road users.
Street hawkers are also adding to the lawlessness on this beautiful highway. It simply beats understanding as to why people would want to sell in between vehicles on a 6 lane highway where vehicles are travelling at that top speed. Unfortunately, street hawking goes with filth and in no time, one should expect filth on that road.
I did not encounter any of the irritable commercial motorbikes popularly known as “Okada” on that route but the handful of cyclists I encountered were not using the bicycle lanes purposely marked for them. Is it because cyclists do not know the use of those lanes?
All the detestable behaviours being exhibited on the George Bush highway be it drivers, pedestrians or hawkers are the totally unacceptable practices that unfortunately, we have watched on unconcerned happening even on ceremonial roads around this country. To allow such recklessness to be transferred to a six lane highway where vehicles are travelling 80 to 100 kilometres per hour is something we will live to regret if we let it go unchecked at this infant stage.
It would become a dangerous road not because it is not well constructed but because some users do not understand what is expected of them. In the process, they are putting everybody’s life at great risk. The level of illiteracy exhibited by some of our road users and sometimes even the patience to learn will kill us.
What we do need on that entire highway are bolder and clearly visible road signs at every short interval to serve as reminders to all users. As I travelled on the road last week, I did not see any “No Stopping” and “No Parking” signs. Maybe it is expected that no driver would stop on such a highway where other side exits have been provided. Unfortunately, some drivers are stopping. I spotted a saloon car and a couple of tro-tro vehicles actually parked in one of the outer lanes.
We need “No Crossing” and “No Hawking” signs at vantage points. Indeed, that entire stretch should be a “No Hawking” zone for safety sake. At this early stage too, we could do with the presence of traffic wardens for the next few months so drivers, hawkers and pedestrians would get educated on what is expected of them.
But while we are on educating users, something which I found inadequate of is exit signs prompting where a particular exit leads to. I saw someone who swerved very swiftly because he nearly missed his exit. Ahead, I saw another one too who tried to do a dangerous reverse a few metres after he realised he had missed his exit.
As for driving limits being put along the entire route, they are a clear must. The number of “tro-tro” vehicles that drove past me doing almost 100 kilometres was unbelievable. Yet we all know that some of these vehicles are not in that good state to be travelling at that speed, plus they carry scores of precious lives at any given time. Of course accidents are caused.
My worst fears were unfortunately confirmed as I was getting to the end of my return journey on the overpass which exists to Kaneshie. I witnessed a fresh and fatal accident involving two saloon cars on the overpass just before one makes a descent to join the Mallam market road.
The overpass is a bit curvy and very quiet too. In one of the bends, the two vehicles seem to have crushed not too long before I reached the spot as there were some officers taking measurements. Could it have been that one of the vehicles was coming from the wrong direction? I wondered.
The George Walker Bush highway is definitely a blessing particularly for those of us living in the extreme end of Accra West. We have endured two years of road disruption, sometimes power cuts and at other times days of interference with our water supply. Our blessing may become our nightmares if strict discipline is not adhered to by all those who are using the road.
Now that we have taken full charge and enjoying the convenience of a less tiresome journey, we would like to plead with the authorities to come in quickly to help put sanity on this highway.
Sanity means adequate road signage, constant checks on undesirable practices such as speeding, indiscriminate stops, street hawking, pedestrians crossing at unauthorised points and jumping over fences. Perhaps one big answer to the multiple problems would be the relocation of the “tro-tro” station at Abeka junction.
As we are at it, one warning that needs to go out strongly is the posting of unsightly posters and adverts on the light poles, the walls and other available spaces along the highway.
We need to do everything to ensure that the road indiscipline currently existing on some of our city roads and streets are not extended to this beautiful highway. We will require the urgent assistance of the Roads and Highways Authorities and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly to preserve the sanity of this beautiful highway for the total travel experience of all.
Reality Zone With Vicky Wireko