Roadworks misery for 3 more years
Ng Kang-chung and Joey Kan
String of excavations scheduled for busy Central and Western thoroughfares
Residents, businesses and motorists in a busy Central area - already plagued by noise, dust and congestion from a string of excavations - face more of the same and worse for at least three more years.
At least nine holes have already been dug in the surfaces of Queen's Road Central and Queen's Road West in the past few months, and the government has issued permits for a further 30 to be dug by government agencies and private firms.
Work on some of the projects will not be finished until January 2011.
It heralds further woes for residents who complain that, in many cases, as soon as one hole is filled in another is dug.
And it is likely to lead to further criticism of the Highways Department, which issues permits for such work and has been under pressure to co-ordinate them better.
'Residents appreciate the need to replace underground water mains or power cables,' Central and Western District Council vice-chairman Stephen Chan Chit-kwai said.
'But we wish there could be better co-ordination among various government departments. Often the road surface is opened for another project just a week after work on one project is done.'
Fellow councillor Kam Nai-wai, of the Democratic Party, agreed.
'The nuisance caused by road excavations has been an ongoing issue on the agenda of the district council. We agree that the works are necessary and we cannot disallow them. But there must be ways to do it better,' Mr Kam said.
'The police should step up enforcement to get rid of illegal parking. That can alleviate the problem of congestion.
'And the highways authorities should also keep a closer watch on the contractors' progress to make sure they can get the work done as soon as possible,' added Mr Kam, who said he would continue following up the issue in the district council.
A Ms Lee, who has lived in Queen's Road West for 10 years, said roadworks seemed to be never-ending, causing air and noise pollution in her neighbourhood.
'Once workers damaged a water main and supply to the area was cut for several hours,' she said.
A Highways Department spokesman said the works were necessary to cope with community development and efforts had been made to minimise the need to open road surfaces too frequently.
Since the handover, the department has been criticised twice by the Audit Commission for its lax management of roadworks, causing unnecessary delays and disturbance to residents' daily life.
Lo Kok-keung, of Polytechnic University's department of mechanical engineering, said nuisance from roadworks could be considered a necessary evil of urban life.
'I do not think there are many alternatives. Putting the cables above the ground may allow easier repairs but it could be dangerous exposing the cables to the air,' Dr Lo said.
The government could consider using stainless steel water mains, he said. 'It is more expensive but the lifespan is longer and thus avoids having to dig up the roads too frequently for maintaining the mains,' Dr Lo said.
Queen's Road Central and Queen's Road West, together 3.6km long, form one of the main thoroughfares linking Central and Western and infrastructure for numerous public utilities lies beneath the surface.
Starting from the Cheung Kong Center, Queen's Road Central runs to Bonham Strand. There it meets Queen's Road West, which ends in Shek Tong Tsui.
Some shopkeepers blamed the roadworks for making the neighbourhood dusty, while drivers complained traffic was held up.
According to the Highways Department, about 40 permits have been issued to various government departments or private firms to carry out roadwork along the two roads.
This accounts for about 11 per cent of all roadwork in the Central and Western District, and includes drainage works not expected to be completed until June next year and a water main project scheduled for completion in January 2011.
That means residents can expect to suffer noise and dust for years to come, while motorists heading into the area will face congestion.