Doing the zigzag on the Kumasi-Sunyani road

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Last Sunday morning, a group of boys were busy on a hazardous section of a road, with spades and other implements. They were filling in the numerous pothole-pools with dirt, waving motorists down to beg for “some coins for pure water, please”.

The above scene is not a description of an activity on a suburban road or on a timber trucks forest track. It was what I saw on the Sunyani-Kumasi road, on June 3, when returning from a trip to Brong-Ahafo. It’s a national highway that not so long ago was reputed as one of the best roads in Ghana.

However, it is now very obviously a casualty of the lack of a maintenance culture that sees the state losing national assets, or having to find money every now and then to save desperate situations.

Today that road has deteriorated so terribly in places that the boys clearly felt the need to take matters into their own hands, being aware of what motorists experience as they try to weave in and out of the many car-unfriendly segments. And, naturally, the self-appointed road repairers expect to benefit from their work.

One of the worst parts is between the two junctions which lead into Mankranso town, which is off that road. In the dry season vehicles trying to manoeuvre their way through the potholes there are enveloped in clouds of dust; in the rainy season they have to contend with pools of water and mud.

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The puzzle is that this particular stretch of that highway seems to have been in that risky state for years. In fact, I can’t remember when vehicles have had a smooth passage on that section.

And, unfortunately, it is one of the roads that has acquired notoriety in recent years as one of Ghana’s killer roads. It was on that road where a couple of months ago the gifted, beautiful singer known as Ebony and her companions died in an accident-waiting-to-happen, on February 8.

Does Minister of Roads and Highways Mr Kwasi Amoako-Atta have plans for the urgent major rehabilitation needed on the Sunyani-Kumasi/Kumasi-Sunyani highway any time soon?

Another cause for concern is the state of the roads of the peri-urban areas as one approaches Kumasi from Sunyani, in particular from Tanoso, past Prempeh College into the city.

Over the years, that stretch, too, has gained a bad reputation for massive traffic jams, for so long that people don’t even bother to talk any more about the stress they undergo there. Parts of it are not recognizable as an urban road; very confusing, compelling vehicles on that extremely busy road to zigzag their way through, at dance competition levels; call it ‘the zigzag’ dance.

The long central reservation from Tanoso, right up to the Bekwai Roundabout, has lush green grass which if trimmed could present an admirable, picturesque entry into Kumasi, Ghana’s second city, which used to be known as the ‘Garden City. The long central reservation is disgracefully overgrown, but nobody seems to care.

I always find it refreshing when I travel outside Accra and other urban areas, even when I’m not in Ghana. I enjoy the scenery on either side of the route, the vast stretches of greenery. Sadly, in Ghana now there’s much cause for regret.

For instance, what has happened to inhabitants’ pride in their villages and towns, demonstrated by boldly written signboards advertising the name of their town? I can remember a time when, especially in Brong-Ahafo, it seemed that there was a continuous contest for the best placename, positioned at both ends of the town.

Those signboards were very helpful, a great promotion for the communities. One would not drive through any place wondering what its name was. Sadly, now in many places, placenames have vanished. One has to keep checking storefronts and general signboards looking for the name of the town or village.

Apparently scores of local authorities can’t even be bothered to put up signboards displaying the name of their town. Is that, too, the work of the central Government?
Also, it’s not only the fact that the signboards have disappeared that is worrying. The appearance of the remaining ones is equally disturbing: faded, dirty, broken or almost swallowed by roadside weeds.

Whose duty is it to remove the unsightly signs of all sorts, notably including those advertising microfinance institutions, cluttering up the highways and town streets? They disfigure the environment!

Yet, presumably each one of the towns and villages has traditional rulers, local authorities and opinion leaders exercising power there! Why are they not concerned about the state of their communities?

Driving into Kumasi, as one negotiates the Sofoline Interchange, one notices that there, too, weeds are taking over.

And when will the interchange get its full complement of directional signs?

It seems that motorists using that interchange are expected to know which lane to use to get to wherever they’re going, even if that is their first time in Kumasi, or the first time they’re using the interchange! A very bizarre, glaring omission. The interchange is so beautifully designed, as its aerial photos testify, that there should be no question marks about any aspect of it.

All over the world, conspicuous, well placed directional signs appear to be an important part of the design of interchanges, clearly because manoeuvering one’s way through could be bewildering; and even dangerous for new users.

Admittedly, it appears that work on the interchange, started in 2007 under President J.A. Kufuor, is not completed. The contractors reportedly abandoned the site owing to non-payment of money due them by the successor administration, that of President John Mahama.

However, it seems to me that as long as the interchange is being used, it should have the necessary directional signs. Even temporary ones will do until the construction works are completed and they are replaced with permanent ones, to help motorists navigate it in safety.

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