POTHOLES, insufficient lightings, narrow access lanes. These phrases best describe the common condition that most tunnels in Petaling Jaya are in and to make matters worse, some of them have become the main cause of traffic congestion defeating the main purpose that they were built for.
While some tunnels in Petaling Jaya, including the one along Persiaran Surian and the Damansara-Puchong Highway (LDP) tunnel at Damansara Utama have been well maintained by the highway concessionaires, other tunnels especially in residential areas are in bad shape without proper management.
A check by StarMetro reveals that some of these tunnels are illegal because they do not adhere to building specifications and should be closed to traffic.
According to the Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ), the building specifications of tunnels in the city are in accordance to the requirements of Public Works Department (JKR). The engineering department of MBPJ is responsible for issues pertaining to tunnels.
“The general guideline is that a tunnel must be 3.65m in height and 9.7m in width, inclusive of walkway. The width was previously set at 9m,” said MBPJ public relations director Haniza Abdul Hamid.
The engineering guidelines provide for a comfortable one-lane access for vehicles unlike the current tunnels now which is usually too narrow, making them accident-prone.
“Maintenance and upgrading is carried out when required. Cases of vandalism are common and we need cooperation from the public. They should lodge reports with us so that we can take the necessary steps,” Haniza explained.
This is in response to the escalating reports of theft and vandalism where light bulbs in many tunnels are stolen as well as the high-tension cables which are stolen for their copper.
What tunnels are for
Tunnels in PJ are also mainly built to provide an alternative route below highways and this means that most of the tunnels are constructed on low land. This has caused the tunnels to flood especially during heavy rain, posing danger to motorists.
But the fact is most of these tunnels have remained as detour routes for motorists.
“I think most tunnels serve as an easy access between two areas or two roads which otherwise would require the motorists to go a longer way to do a U-turn or cross junctions to get to the other side.
“It is a short-term solution but keeping the tunnels open without proper traffic planning will ultimately affect traffic flow and cause congestion,” said engineer Syed Rizal, who lives in Damansara Perdana.
Most residents in Damansara Perdana now have to use the tunnel access at the area’s traffic light junction to get on the LDP leading to Bandar Utama or Taman Tun Dr Ismail.
If that tunnel is closed, the residents will have to do a detour across Mutiara Damansara or U-turn at the Kepong LDP toll.
“Some tunnels should be kept open if sufficient traffic study is done to show that it will alleviate congestion and not just to provide convenience for motorists.
“I also believe that the local authority should be more mindful in managing the tunnels because most of the time, the lightings are not working and it is dangerous,” Rizal said.
Fast solution sought in Ara Damansara
In Ara Damansara, the traffic problem is brewing and residents are desperate for the local authority to find a solution soon.
The main cause is the access of Ara Damansara to the LDP and one tunnel cuts through Jalan Emas 2 is the main access that almost all the residents in Ara Damansara are using.
The tunnel was initially built as a shortcut for rubbish trucks and not for commercial vehicles. It currently serves as a toll-free alternative between Ara Damansara and the LDP.
However, the increasing density of Ara Damansara has amounted to high traffic during peak hours and the tunnel has become a nightmare for surrounding residents and motorists.
The condition of the tunnel has been in bad shape with potholes, high-tension cables hanging, and even the gantry has been stolen allowing access to heavy-duty vehicles like construction lorries.
Residents have also reported car break-ins as the tunnel provided an easy getaway for thieves.
MBPJ is now undertaking a traffic study on the current situation in Ara Damansara which also involves another nearby tunnel which cuts through Kelana Idaman to the Selangor Football Association (FAS) field.
The FAS tunnel is now closed despite being completed for almost half a year and would have been a solution to help divert traffic from the Jalan Emas 2 tunnel.
“We have received a lot of responses from the residents and will begin our traffic study on July 21 (today) where we will open the FAS tunnel.
“We want to see how the traffic patterns will be once the other tunnel is open so we can think of a long-term solution for this problem,” said a spokesman from the MBPJ’s engineering department.
MBPJ will embark on a continuous assessment on the sustainability of tunnels in PJ but they cite that the responses of residents are of importance.
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