Boon or bane southern expressway here to stay

Hare and the tortoise, not to mention dogs die toll free
By Damith Wickremasekara

The E-1 or the southern expressway, in its first week of operation, netted over Rs 8.5 million, with a traffic flow of over 36,000 vehicles. Road Development Authority (RDA) Chairman R.W. R. Premasiri said on an average 5,000 vehicles were plying the expressway daily.

But, the road also experienced problems, with the biggest of them being dogs, rabbits, tortoises, porcupines and peacocks straying on to the road, with many dogs, rabbits being killed.

Acting Director Highways R.A.D. Kahatapitiya told the Sunday Times that the contractors have been instructed to recheck the fence erected to prevent dogs and rabbits straying onto the road, and take remedial action.

He said that they would have to do a rethink to prevent peacocks from coming onto the road.
“We need to get the dogs off the road to ensure safety on the road, as motorists travelling at high speed, in their attempts to avoid hitting the dogs, could cause accidents,” he said.

He said that a week’s period has been given to effect remedial action. At least five accidents were reported in the first week, with two of them caused by drivers under the influence of liquor.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (Traffic) Ashoka Wijetillake told the Sunday Times that they have decided to check speeding, as they have found that some of the vehicles were traveling at excessive speeds.

He said that they have also decided to check for drunk driving at entry points. “We have also noticed that some of the vehicles did not have suitable tyres, while others were not mechanically sound. “Several vehicles had stalled midway due to overheating,” he added.

He said that, when it rains, motorists would have to reduce speed to avoid skidding. “We are also appealing to the motorists not to use mobile phones and not to throw objects on to the road,” he said adding that paramedics, a breakdown team and the fire brigade service are all being handled by the fire brigade.

Meanwhile RDA chairman said those who stop on the way take photographs of the picturesque scenery will be produced before court. Drivers who used the expressway this week told the Sunday Times that the exit point at Kottawa posed a danger for motorists as the exit gate is located close to a bend.

“We feel that the exit point should have been located further away from the bend,” a motorist said.
Meanwhile, animal rights activists have voiced concern over the deaths of dogs on the expressway.
Prior to the ceremonial opening of the expressway, as a safety measure for the dogs from being run over, an animal welfare activist initiated a programme to have the dogs in the vicinity of the expressway, relocated to the other side of the fence, on an assurance by the authorities that once the dogs are put on the other side of the fence, they will not able to run on to the expressway.

Under this programme, around 300 dogs were relocated on to the other side. The activist said that, according to eyewitnesses, some of the relocated dogs have come on to the expressway by creeping under the fence.

“There are even certain spots where cattle and humans can get on to the expressway, because of the faulty fence,” the activist said.

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