2012-05-10

Is A Bridge Really Needed In Jal El Dib?

The infamous Jal El Dib bridge before it's removal (credit yasa.org)

Traffic in Lebanon has always been a huge problem. Bad roads, bad driving, lack of strict laws are some of the main causes.

In its plan to correct the roads situation, Lebanese government related bodies have decided to remove the ages old Jal El Dib bridge. Right in the middle of the coastal highway, the bridge was nothing but a huge speed bump, and a major traffic cause, not to mention the unsafe conditions of the bridge. After removing the bridge, the road has been modified to allow cars (only on the north direction) to either go to Jal El Dib or continue their way. Following this step, and since the conditions were  improved, somehow talks of not building a new bridge emerged, and the inhabitants of the region were outraged and decided, on May 8 to block the roads in protest in order to make their voice heard.

Jal El Dib citizens blocking the highway on May 8
(credit blogbaladi.com - Picture by Joanna)
The proposed solution, backed up by Jal El Dib municipality
Many people commented on the protest, many were with it many others were against it yet supported the idea of the tunnel/bridge in Jal El Dib and others refuted the whole idea. (My favorite was the post at .:From Beirut With Funk:.)

But is a bridge really needed?

A compromise solution can be found which can take into consideration the budgetary concerns of the government, the traffic requirements and the need for an easy and accessible road for the citizens of the region.

I don't claim to have figured out what specialized engineers haven't, but at least I think the below solution* would make sense, in the context of the compromise aforementioned.

Click to view large version
A possible vision for the Jal El Dib intersection.
As an advocate of the simple and elegant, I find this idea very appealing.

In brief, instead of making a bridge, let's add a traffic light intersection. The highway at this point is 4 lanes wide (on each direction), and the speed limit is only 80km/h so slowing down to stop at a red traffic-light isn't really that risky.
Note that the rightmost lanes on the direction to Beirut will remain opened all the time so traffic to the capital is not halted. As for the direction towards the north, drivers will have slow to down at 2 sets of road studs separated by some distance (say 20m), before stopping, in case the light is red, for a short interval of time.
To go into Jal El Dib, the north direction cars don't have to stop, if their path is ensured, as for the cars heading south (coming from Jounieh, say), they'll have to stop for some time at the red traffic-light.
A similar scenario for the cars willing to go from Jal El Dib to the highway. If they wanna head north, they won't stop at the traffic-light (unless their path is blocked by other more prior traffic), as for cars heading towards Beirut, they'll have to stop for some time at the red traffic-light.
A possible distribution of timings would be like:

  • For the Beirut to North Direction (or U-turn): Green Light 360s, Red Light 180s
  • For the North to Beirut Direction, towards Jal El Dib (or U-turn): Green Light 90s, Red Light 450s
  • For the Jal El Dib to Highway (Beirut Direction): Green Light 90s, Red Light 450s

But shouldn't we have electricity first before we have such a scheme?

That's an invalid argument, in my opinion. we have many alternatives to power up the traffic lights system. It barely requires power as much as a small household. A possible alternative would be with solar-panel powered traffic lights. Another alternative, my personal favorite, is using the presence of road studs. The speed bumps can be made out of solar studs, or to make use of the kinetic energy of the bumping at the studs to generate power (deployed in the city of London). Even, in the worst of cases, a standalone fuel-powered generator, can provide necessary power to feed the system, and it wouldn't cost a lot (I apologize for not doing the math but a ~2000W system shouldn't consume much).

Speed bumps can be used to generate electrical power
(credit Uncle  Bugs)
Cool, we're saving money, but the government's gonna rob it, so what's the point?

We can protest this, and demand specific commitments in terms of healthcare, employees salaries and other social welfare systems, or maybe invest in traffic control and safety systems. It's time for us to be citizens, not just a group of beneficiaries. It's time for us to drive what the government does.

I hope this would find its way to many of you, and if not be implemented, at least trigger the discussion of such options, especially that the related committee is now studying the potential solutions and should report in about 3 weeks.

Joseph.

* This idea sparked to me a couple of weeks back, but thanks to the lack of my graphic talents, had to wait some time before the designer at our office, Richard aka Rasheed, had the time to intervene.

9 comments:

  1. Joseph this idea was already contemplated,but u need to remember this is Lebanon, until people learn to drive in a straight line , it won't work.
    U know people will be coming from the rightmost lanes to try to enter Jal el Dib and essentially the highway will be blocked until the traffic light changes and no one will have that.
    But it is still better than doing nothing.
    It could be done as an experiment since it doesn't cost anything.
    Doubt it will work though

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    1. How long are we gonna stay apologetic about lack of safe driving? I don't want to shift the subject here, but it's about time we mature about our driving and sanction it. And as I said I aim at opening discussing similar alternatives.

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  2. I agree with Oliver, it's a good idea but with the driving skills we have in Lebanon, traffic would start from Jbeil. There should be a law allowing people to kill bad drivers...
    One thing I don't understand, people demonstrate every Tuesday for a bridge to be built but do not demonstrate for exponential prices augmentation and < 0 quality of life?

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    1. I assume the motives are political behind this...
      anyhow we could invest in a camera system at the intersection with an elevated money fine. Saudis managed to regulate traffic at intersections in less than 3 months (with some infractions, but with very little significant numbers) so it's not an impossible thing to do.

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  3. Sorry Joseph but unfortunately this idea won't work at all. The point of the bridge was to allow 2 lanes as a U-turn from Jal-el-Dib towards Beirut, and the remaining 2 - 3 lanes to head uninterrupted towards Jounieh. There was traffic not because of the bridge itself but because drivers used to cut lanes off from the far right and then blocked traffic to get on the bridge.

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  4. A plausible & logical solution would be to build a 4-lane bridge instead of 3 & leave 1 lane for the U-turn to Beirut.
    I can't help but add that if the government REALLY cared about traffic jams, they'd have found a solution to the outrageous citymall bridge whose traffic stretches to Nahr Brahim. But what-ever! Jal-el-Dib wasn't causing that much traffic compared to Antelias & Nahr El Mot. There's just a huge increase in the number of cars on the road today & there were too many irresponsible drivers cutting lanes. Add a lane, and keep the highway open.

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    Replies
    1. Exactly why this solution would work... the complaint is not about the amount of traffic, it's about a suitable entrance and the economic flourishing of the region... and indeed this opens the discussion to many other weird cases and the whole traffic situation in the country.

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  5. It works regardless how stupid people drive in this useless country.. And it's far cheaper than going for bridges and structures that'll take decades to be complete in Lebanon. They want to drive like idiots ? fine.. Put a policeman over there giving tickets to all the smart boys and girls trying to dodge the red lights. Done.

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    Replies
    1. hehe thanks Samer. Indeed we need the will to change our behavior. As for the Policemen, not sure if this could work with the current state of the fores :-P but investing in Traffic-light cameras is a possible unbiased alternative :D

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