Clogged traffic eases in Phuentsholing

Clogged traffic in the border town of Phuentsholing, which has been a persistent problem for years now, is finally showing some signs of easement.

Traffic congestion, which happens mostly during winters and during the morning office hours and evening, has become lighter last year compared to the situation that was there a few years back.

According to Phuentsholing Thromde, unlike the past years, traffic was smooth in the previous year. This has been attributed to the second gate which was opened to traffic last year, thus allowing one-way vehicular traffic movement in the core town area. The incoming light vehicles now route through the second gate unlike in the past where vehicles from both sides maneuver through the main gate.

And diverting all the government programs like seminars and workshops, which usually happen in Phuentsholing to other Dzongkhags, according to Phuentsholing Thromde, has helped to minimize the congestion.

Phuentsholing Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said traffic congestion is a chronic issue which cannot be solved overnight.

“But this year with all these efforts, it has subsided. Of course, traffic congestion happens in every town. But Phuentsholing being unplanned city has the most traffic congestion,” he added.

The main reasons for traffic congestion in Phuentsholing are due to the narrow road and the absence of bypass roads. The town, though being a commercial hub and the gateway to the Pasakha Industrial Estate, sees all vehicles including heavy truckloads enter the core town and many loaded trucks get stuck on the midway, thus blocking the traffic flow. Floating population during the winter for shopping has been another cause for traffic congestion.

The location of the Department of Revenue and Customs office is also another reason for the increasing traffic congestion, according to vehicle drivers. They say vehicles have to maneuver through the main road to reach the office to process for customs clearance.

Additionally, multiple ongoing projects along the roads in the town have also caused traffic obstructions, according to the Thrompon. A couple of projects are still underway inside the town like the construction of integrated vegetable market, multi-car parking, mini dry port, and the construction of northern bypass route, among others.

“Once these projects are complete, we can expect smooth flow of traffic. Till then people have to be patient,” Uttar Kumar Rai said.

Having the lone bridge over Omchhu towards the hospital is another possible cause of traffic congestion as all the vehicles moving to the other side of the town use the single road.

“It’s time that the government must come up with alternatives,” 36-year-old driver Tshewang Penjor said. “In winter, we get stuck for almost half an hour,” he said.

However, the Thrompon assures that once all the ongoing projects complete, traffic flow in Phuentsholing will be smoother.

“The mini dry port, integrated vegetable market and multi-car parking are expected to be complete this year and the northern bypass including two bridges over Omchhu is expected to be complete by mid-2020. The Thromde will also do away with the single lane parking inside the town. All the heavy vehicles will be diverted through the northern bypass. The town will be free of traffic congestion. We are working tirelessly to decongest and offer smooth traffic flow,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the Thromde in the 12th Plan also plans to work on connecting access roads to different locations, where traffic will be diverted.

A traffic police, meanwhile, said that people neglecting traffic laws add to traffic congestion.

“Commuters though now use zebra crossings, still they use phones and walk too slow,” he said.

“Some shake hands and hug in the middle of the road, which must be worthy of penalty. Traffic only penalizes commuters for not using zebra crossing by levying Nu 1,250 as a penalty,” he added.

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing