RANGOON — The Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) plans to install about 200 state-of-the-art traffic lights in the congested former capital, a committee official said.
The plan, which the committee hopes to implement within three to six months, is to be carried out in two phases and would cost about US$40 million.
Tin Maung Kyi, head of YCDC’s Department of Engineering (Roads and Bridges), told The Irrawaddy that the plan was established to counter Rangoon’s “critical” traffic problem.
Rangoon Division Chief Minister Myint Swe recently told reporters that the regional and municipal governments are currently holding discussions with the YCDC regarding details of implementation.
The first phase of the project would include installation of 75 traffic lights and construction of a command station to control traffic flows. Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has donated 10 traffic lights to be used in the initial phase. The cost of implementing phase one has been estimated at $20 million in light of the gift.
Those lights will be installed within one month on two major roadways: Kaba Aye and Parami roads.
Tin Maung Kyi said that he doesn’t know exactly when the other 65 units will be installed as the YCDC still has to carry out a tender process to fund the project, but he was confident that phase one would be complete by mid-2015.
The official said that the timeframe for bidders will be announced “within the next two weeks.”
The YCDC is also making efforts to reduce bus traffic, Tin Maung Kyi said. The committee has recommended new regulations that would require buses to drive in a designated yellow lane, adding that if drivers do not comply, the city will install concrete roadblocks that separate the buses from other vehicles.
Installing such barricades on the city’s roads would cost about $2 million, he said.
Another major expense of the project is a proposal to install CCTV control cameras that measure traffic density and automatically open up the most heavily trafficked lanes. The YCDC has already begun testing the system at Rangoon’s 8-mile junction.
Urban planning expert Kyaw Latt told The Irrawaddy that the system is used by nearly all modernized metropolitan areas and could reduce congestion by 15-20 percent.
“This is a must-have system,” he said.
Myint Swe estimated that about 80 percent of Burma’s registered cars are used in Rangoon. Many are registered in other divisions at a lower cost and brought into the financial capital, making the number of vehicles difficult to calculate.
While the city’s drivers agree that there is a growing traffic problem, some said that the expensive and currently unfinanced traffic light plan might not be the silver bullet that the committee made it out to be.
“I don’t think upgrading the traffic lights is the proper solution to this problem,” said Aung Gyi, a Rangoon city taxi driver. He said that the number of cars on the road is rapidly increasing, and what the city needs is more roads and flyovers to accommodate the influx of vehicles.
Tin Maung Kyi said in response that the traffic light plan is a “short term” solution, and that a more long term plan is being drawn up with JICA to build a network of new roadways and flyovers throughout the city. The Japanese government aid agency has already drawn up an urban transport development master plan, as it did for Lao capital Vientiane.