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Travelling on the road to nowhere

Traffic came to a literal standstill in Bermuda on Saturday. The gridlock lasted throughout the day when construction work on Harbour Road resulted in thousands of motorists heading both to and from the western parishes being snarled in endless traffic jams.

Western-bound traffic attempting to access Harbour Road was being rerouted on to Middle Road along Lovers Lane. As a result, vehicles heading in both directions along Middle Road had to keep stopping to allow drivers out of that side road.

The results could and should have been expected: bumper-to-bumper congestion on Middle Road and South Road, extending, at times, from Trimingham Hill in the east to as far as the Cobbs Hill junctions with both roads in the west.

The delays were maddeningly long, with some eastbound drivers reporting that it took them an hour or more to reach Hamilton from areas normally only a few minutes' drive away.

Many thousands of Bermuda residents and visitors were inconvenienced. People missed airline flights and important appointments. Had there been any major accidents or fires, emergency responders could no more have negotiated the paralysed traffic than any other road user.

By the end of the day, tempers were flaring. And patience was in as limited supply as common sense apparently was at whatever gathering of public works ministry officials signed off on this epically inept decision.

The situation was as infuriating as it was largely avoidable.

For simply closing access to Harbour Road at Crow Lane would have considerably alleviated the problem: eliminating the need to redirect vehicles on to Middle Road from Lovers Lane would have eliminated the need continuously to interrupt free-flowing traffic on that major artery, the main cause of the snaking back-ups in both directions.

Closing access to Harbour Road from Crow Lane would have increased the amount of traffic heading to the west over Trimingham Hill, certainly. There would have been delays at the southern roundabout where Trimingham Road merges with South Road.

However, with a police presence ensuring a relatively smooth and steady movement of traffic at that junction, such delays could have been kept to a minimum. As it was, police appear to have been caught quite as off-guard by the at times impassable congestion on two of our main roads as the rest of us were.

Saturday's bottlenecks come on the heels of other recent traffic delays caused by seemingly never-ending trenching work being carried out on a tiny stretch of Harbour Road. Again, detouring vehicles on to Middle Road using Lovers Lane or Valley Road has led to all-too predictable chaos, often during peak hours for road use.

Clearly, the public works ministry needs to reassess its procedures and protocols when it comes to temporary road closures and traffic detours. Ministry officials also need to better co-ordinate with both the police service and the public to minimise the more disruptive effects of such activities.

Notice of the work being carried out on the weekend on Harbour Road was, after all, only very lightly publicised. And obviously hundreds of people might have opted to leave their cars at home and use the ferries if they had been better aware of the likely gridlock they were going to drive into.

There is simply no excuse for the lack of proper warning about the likely delays and back-ups that drivers would have to contend with, given the experiences of recent weeks. But, then, government communications strategy in Bermuda does have a tendency to be rather like Saturday's traffic: every time you think it's about to get moving and take you somewhere, you hit another jam.

Construction work on Harbour Road, which resulted in a diversion to Middle Road and caused long tailbacks on Saturday.

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Published June 14, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 14, 2016 at 8:03 am)

Travelling on the road to nowhere

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