Friday, 18 October 2019, Kuching: Ever wondered why there are road diversions as you drive along the currently being upgraded federal trunk road into a four lanes dual carriageway of Pan Borneo Highway Sarawak? Like many others, you too may be wondering why the need for road diversions since it only causes inconvenience to road users plying along these routes during this construction stage.
LBU Head of Technical Services Saroj Kumar Lahori explains the need for such diversions:
“As we are upgrading the current Federal trunk road into the Pan Borneo Highway, it is just not about widening the road from the existing two lanes into four lanes carriageway. We also have to upgrade the horizontal and vertical curves of the road to smoothen the profile. This will allow for higher speeds with ease of driving.
“Upgrading the road into an R5 standard from the current R3 standard means the new highway, although most of it still along the existing alignment, will be less winding and curvy to give road users a smooth and straight driving experience.
“In this process of upgrading – making the road wider road with smoothened curves - since the existing road portion carries the live traffic, diversions of existing traffic to temporary roads for some period becomes mandatory. For ease of understanding, these diversions will not be required when a totally new 4 lane road is being constructed where there is no interference of live traffic to cater to.
“At the same time, we also have to construct new culverts and bridges along the way to replace the old ones which most of them have come of age. That is where such road traffic diversions become obligatory to construct. Being on a technically intricate locations, these structure elements take longer time to construct.
“To understand the situation, in the widening process, a new culvert or bridge is constructed beside the existing old structure and the existing traffic is diverted to the new diversion. The old structure will be demolished when the new structure built is in place and the diversion reinstated.
Constructing these temporary road diversions takes few weeks. All necessary traffic equipment needs to be installed according to the approved traffic management plan before vehicles are allowed on the diversions. A dedicated maintenance team looks after the condition and maintenance of diversions.
“Diversions are only a temporary measure to facilitate your travel while the project team is building a new road, meaning these diversions are not meant to be long lasting. Overloaded lorries which ply along these routes and unscrupulous drivers can damage these diversions. Of course, the wet spell does not help either.
“We ask the public to bear with us during this time. Once the Pan Borneo’s new permanent road or the new culverts are completed, traffic will be channeled from these diversions to the new roads.
“We have seen the number of potholes to the diversions ratio is on a downward trend over the past few months. This partly due to rigorous monitoring and maintenance and partly due to better weather.
“By the beginning of next year, we can expect the first carriageway of the Pan Borneo Highway to be completed, and while we will move on to construct the second carriageway most of these diversions will be gone.
“Motorists by then will be shifted to the first carriageway, and they will have a smooth drive all the way from Sematan to Miri while we work on the second carriageway,” says Lahori.