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Expressways Have Exacerbated Traffic Congestion

Urban experts say the astronomical amount invested in the project could have been put to better use such as expanding the Tehran Metro which carries 3 million commuters every day
Widening roadways or construction of elevated highways hardly fixes the traffic problem, contrary to conventional wisdom among transport planners.Widening roadways or construction of elevated highways hardly fixes the traffic problem, contrary to conventional wisdom among transport planners.

Members of the Tehran City Council (TCC) now say that adequate research was not conducted before construction of the two-level Sadr Expressway in northeast Tehran, and the costly project has failed to meet its main purpose of easing the torturous traffic on the eastern-western roads.

The 11-km long elevated freeway runs west from Modarres Expressway in Gholhak neighborhood and east through Gheytarieh, Doulat, Darrous, Chizar, and Ekhtiariyeh, at which point it crosses Pasdaran Avenue and enters Babayi Expressway.

Urban experts say the project has in fact worsened traffic congestion on the  eastern flank of the expanding capital that is now home to 12 million people.

Some others maintain that even if the expressway didn’t exacerbate road traffic, the astronomical amount invested in the project could have been put to better use such as expanding the Tehran Metro which carries 3 million commuters every day.

Based on global urban planning studies, multi-tier highways are expensive to construct, and even more costly to maintain. Studies have also indicated that widening roadways or construction of elevated highways hardly fixes the traffic problem, contrary to conventional wisdom among transport planners, because the measure brings more private cars onto the streets.

Economists and social experts have for decades said that the solution to reduce the unending traffic in Tehran is to expand and improve public transportation. Their pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

To the contrary, carmakers and car importers have been doing very good business with the former flooding the urban areas across the country with their crappy gas guzzlers.

  No Audit So Far

TCC members say a huge amount was invested on construction of the Sadr Expressway and the Tehran Municipality (TM) so far has not opened the books to independent audit, ISNA reported.

The council which is elected for a four-year term supervises the budget of the Tehran Municipality and elects the mayor.

At a meeting on Monday, Councilor Abdolhossein Mokhtabad urged TM officials to make public how much the controversial project cost. “Four years have passed since its completion, but so far we are all in the dark on how much was precisely spent on the expressway.”

Stating that the facts and figures provided by the TM are riddled with holes, he urged the TM to give a cost breakdown of each phase of the project in an open TCC session.

Responding to the councilor, Alireza Javid, technical deputy to the mayor, said that $330 million (13,000 billion rials) has been spent on construction of the project. He brushed aside remarks by critics that more than $1.7-2.5 billion (70,000-100,000 billion rials) was spent on the expressway.

“We will disclose the exact numbers by the end of the current fiscal year in March,” he said.

Before starting the project, the TM had claimed that the Sadr Expressway and its connectivity to the Niayesh Tunnel, would in addition to reducing traffic by 40% in the areas along the highway, would also help decrease traffic snarls on six other main roadways. However the huge congestions on the connecting roadways indicate that instead of proving to be a boon it has become a bane for traffic.

  Lack of Wisdom

Earlier, Mohammad Mahdi Tondguyan, spokesman for the High Commission for Analyzing Architecture and Urban Plans of the TCC, had said that the problem of traffic congestion in Tehran is not due to the construction of Niyayesh tunnel (opened in February 2013) or the Sadr Expressway. “The main problem is the lack of wisdom in prioritizing urban projects.”

The TM says that $683.5 million (27,000 billion rials) has been spent on construction of the Niayesh Tunnel.

Niyayesh Tunnel, also in northern Tehran, is the world’s second longest urban tunnel, and excluding its ramps, is 6,658 meters long.  The tunnel has two parallel roads that are within 130 m of each other for most of the route. Traffic in the north tunnel flows from east to west and in the south tunnel, from west to east.

The daily influx of people, mainly commuters brings the daylight population of Tehran up to more than 15 million, more than a fifth of the country’s population of 80 million.

It is estimated that over four million vehicles ply Tehran roads and the TM estimates that some 19 million daily trips are made in the capital city.

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