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Building Bridges in Baghdad and other Iraqi Provinces: Important Notes

PhD Shubber Falah


Every time we build a bridge or a car tunnel, we notice the deterioration of the commercial area surrounding the intersection!! Bridges and car tunnels speed up the movement of cars in the streets and make it difficult for them to stop. Isn’t that the purpose of bridges? Yes, we build bridges to facilitate the movement of the car and reduce traffic congestion.
However, the side effects, we make it difficult for pedestrians to move around, so the sales of the surrounding shops decrease, and thus the vitality of the region declines, and city centers die!!

Since Jane Jacobs’ book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, in 1961 until now, the same problem and the same solutions!
That brave woman fought to save her city, New York, from the bridges and streets of the powerful planner, Robert Moses. She raised her voice with demonstrations, courts, and articles. Well she did, she stopped the project and saved her city from the damage done to most other American cities. Jacobs argued: A city can’t be just for speeding cars. The city cannot be under the authority of road engineers and their mathematical equations only. A city is a city, because of; its safety for pedestrians, its public gardens, its wide sidewalks, its easy parking lots, its small shops, its various uses, its historical nodes, where people meet, and sellers wander. It is a city by providing easy-to-access places to embrace its people without discrimination. It has a place for children, women, the elderly, the poor or the rich people alike.

Therefore, cities are developed by teams, consists of urban planners, urban designers, infrastructure engineers, certainly road engineers, historians, architects, and perhaps the most important member, the representatives of the area under development.

Now, due to the traffic congestion, the authority has become completely in the hands of the road engineers! With all due respect, but this field of engineering addresses only one aspect of the problem, and so their solutions are not comprehensive. In other words, road engineering reduces congestion, but unintentionally, kills the area around intersections.

Thus, the important question becomes, how do we address traffic congestion then? Should we keep the intersections as they are, in order to preserve the spirit of the city?
Of course not, the traffic jams, in Baghdad at least, is the biggest problem right now, and it must be addressed.
However, bridges and tunnels are not the ideal solutions for the traffic congestion as we think. There are other solutions, for example; removing the cause of congestion from the area, and moving it to another place, could be a good treatment. Sometimes, new traffic axes parallel to the old axes are strengthened, or creating ring streets outside the city, to withdraw congestion from the city centers. Other times, small bridges could be built that partially solve the problem, reduce congestion to an acceptable extent, and maintain the vitality of the place in a reasonable manner as well. Sometimes a strict law prohibits stopping on the sides of the road, or imposing fees to enter a crowded area. Revitalizing public transport is certainly a priority in all solutions.

In addition to what was mentioned above, bridges reduce congestion for a year or two, after that, car owners make it easier to use their private cars, and traffic congestion returns. This time, we lose twice. We lose the vitality of the place, and we lose the money that we spend on the bridges.

Several examples that witness to this, is the bridges spread in the center of Baghdad, or the bridges of the Twentieth Revolution (Thawrat Alashreen) in Najaf. They have been overcrowded all the time!
The issue of mitigation the traffic congestion is complex, and it cannot be solved by widening the streets and establishing bridges. The solutions must be cumulative and cooperative, based on coordination between the relevant sectors.

د شبر منعم فلاح, [04/07/2023 01:45 PM] The point in this brief article, the city authorities, must stop and think a little, before making a decision to build a bridge in the city center. The road engineering equations alone cannot control the shape of the city. These equations were designed to facilitate the movement of the car, without any regard for the vitality of the place.

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