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The Death Trap referred to as Umaru Yar'adua “Expressway” in Abuja Nigeria.

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I was in Nigeria recently and had cause to visit Abuja FCT from Lagos.  As you exit Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport through the dual carriageway link road, the major road out to Abuja township is the Umaru Yar'adua “Expressway” currently under reconstruction with most of it completed. The road is beautiful to the ordinary eye at daytime and wonderful at night when the array of street lights are turned on exposing the undulating but straight string of lights as the road transverses the hills and valleys of the modern city.

But there is a critical and dysfunctional design error to this “expressway” in the section that runs from the Airport Link road to the Abuja Gateway making it an obvious death trap. The design that incorporates U-Turns within the Island of an “Expressway” (allowing people to make u-turns from the innermost and fastest lane) is a critical code violation that negates the functional purpose of the expressway and endangers the life of users. It is only in Nigeria that such a critical design flaw will readily pass through without detection and correction by the relevant authorities before construction.

By definition, an Expressway or Freeway (US) is the highest-grade type of highway with access ramps, lane dividers, central island barriers etc for high-speed traffic. There are lower grades of roads such as drives, roads, crescents, alleys, closes, etc where stops and/or U-Turns may be allowed. For an expressway however, stops and U-turns are strictly not allowable.

From its definition, Attributes of an Expressway by inference should include the following:

High Speed-Design for High Speed traffic including maximum and minimum speeds with no stops whatsoever except in emergencies and no learner drivers.

Graduated Speed-In a right lane drive nation like Nigeria, the maximum speed is for the innermost lane while the minimum speed is for the outermost lane that discharges traffic to the service lanes through ramps.

Graduated Speed-The maximum speed on the Service Road linking the Expressway cannot be greater than the minimum speed on the Expressway itself as the latter is supposed to discharge its fast traffic to the former at exits and absolve the slow traffic of the former for access to the later.

Graduated Speed-For logical consistency and good traffic management, slower moving traffic should be on the outermost lanes while fast traffic should be on the innermost lanes.

Safety Barriers-Central Island safety barriers to prevent traffic cross-over from one direction to the other side with opposing traffic flow.

Controlled Entry-Access ramps control entry and exit into the Expressway from only the Service Roads with lower speed limits.

Thus the current design whereby U-turns are incorporated into the Umaru Yar'ardua Expressway through breaks in Island dividers is not only a code violation but also a dysfunctional safety flaw with deadly consequences that should be avoided for the following reasons:

Making a U-Turn from innermost lane in one direction to innermost lane in the other direction requires vehicles to reduce speed to near zero at the U-turn point and certainly pick up from zero to join the innermost lane on the other side where traffic is at highest speed.

Most drivers making a U-turn are doing so to access the service lanes on the other side of the road so they can exit the expressway and possibly stop. Thus they need to cross from the innermost (fastest) lanes to the service lanes while traffic is heavy and fast on the expressway to be able to exit through the service lanes. (Crossings are inimical to Expressway functionality)

Even in nations where there is high level of literacy and compliance with safety rules and regulations from drivers, such a design and practice is not encouraged talk less of Nigeria where people hardly have regard for traffic laws if they exist.

Keeping the U-Turns as they currently exist is a recipe for mass murder and disaster.

I wonder who approved that design for the construction of that “expressway” in the first instance.

My suggestion is that the proper and tested functional design should be implemented, that is ensure that all turns are from the outermost lane in the service roads through either overhead or underground passes. This design will certainly be more expensive but that is the minimum that the government and contractor can do to comply with code, achieve proper functionality for the expressway and save the lives of Nigerians from avoidable carnage that will result from using that “expressway” as it is at present.

This is also an opportunity for the government to establish and comply with codes as necessary for the design and construction of similar facilities in Nigeria. Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.