Smooth conditions on MCE during peak hours, no design flaws: LTA

Traffic on the westbound Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE), near the Central Boulevard exit, at 9.25am on Jan 6, 2014. Traffic conditions on the MCE and its adjoining road network have been generally smooth during peak hours since its opening apar
Traffic on the westbound Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE), near the Central Boulevard exit, at 9.25am on Jan 6, 2014. Traffic conditions on the MCE and its adjoining road network have been generally smooth during peak hours since its opening apart from the morning of Dec 30, said the Land Transport Authority on Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Traffic conditions on the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE) and its adjoining road network have been generally smooth during peak hours since its opening apart from the morning of Dec 30, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA) on Wednesday.

LTA deputy chief executive Chua Chong Kheng provided an update of traffic conditions on the new expressway, some two weeks after it opened on Dec 29 last year.

Addressing notions that motorists may still be avoiding the new expressway, Mr Chua noted that peak hour traffic volumes on the MCE and East Coast Parkway (ECP) are at the levels seen on the ECP in October last year.

"The current smooth traffic conditions are not the result of motorists still avoiding the MCE and adjoining roads," he said.

He attributed the traffic snarls on Dec 30, which saw some motorists stuck in traffic for up to two hours, to several factors including a lack of familiarity with the new road network and a choke point along Central Boulevard.

He noted that some motorists going to the Ayer Rajah Expressway that morning did not turn into the MCE, but continued to use the ECP and Sheares Avenue, which contributed to congestion along Marina Boulevard.

Many motorists entered the CBD at Exit 3 via Central Boulevard instead of Exit 1 to Maxwell Road, resulting in heavier traffic on the boulevard than expected. Motorists unfamiliar with the interim road network in the Marina South area also added to the congestion, he said.

The LTA took several measures to address the congestion, including converting a short stretch of Central Boulevard from two to four lanes to add capacity and adding more than 100 temporary signs. These measures, together with increasing familiarity with the MCE, contributed to improved traffic conditions, he added.

Mr Chua acknowledged, however, that the LTA could have done more in terms of signages, which could have minimised the congestion on Dec 30.

Turning to criticisms about the MCE's design, he said comprehensive planning and traffic studies were conducted before it was designed and constructed. On feedback that two lanes leading to the ECP from MCE were insufficient, he said some of the eastbound traffic is expected to continue using Sheares Bridge. Actual traffic conditions in the past two weeks have validated that the provision is sufficient, he added.

In the longer term, he said a three-lane connection to the KPE is needed to meet long-term development needs in the north east of Singapore. "While some motorists have pointed out deficiencies, I want to assure the public that this is not the case."

The LTA will draw on lessons learned from the Dec 30 congestion for future road openings, and be more mindful that motorists may still be uncertain driving on new roads for the first time even if they are informed before hand, he said.