The proposals to construct the Duplication Road and Marine Drive were made on 6th December 1944

Published : 10:00 am  April 23, 2015 | No comments so far |  | 


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As Sri Lanka’s economy expands, finding lasting solutions to traffic congestion has become a major challenge especially in urban areas. Our road accidents, traffic jams and delays cost an estimated Rs. 200 billion per year, according to transport specialist Professor Amal Kumarage of the Moratuwa University.
One of the busiest highways in Sri Lanka is the Colombo – Galle Road, especially from Fort to Moratuwa. Easing congestion on this stretch has been a formidable challenge. Among the more innovative solutions is the construction of a Marine Drive parallel to busy sections of the Colombo – Galle Road.

Mr. T. Perinpanayagam, retired Deputy Inspector General of Police (Traffic) and former Director Traffic at Police Headquarters, has been at the forefront in advocating the Marine Drive, as well as the extending of Duplication Road.
In the 1980s, Galle Road was already beginning to experience heavy traffic congestion during rush hour. All projections indicated that this was going to intensify over time. Traffic Police was facing the brunt of this congestion. So the search or viable alternatives began in earnest.
Going through official records, Mr. Perinpanayagam found that the sanctioned street line proposals to construct the Duplication Road and Marine Drive were first made far back on 6th December 1944, during British administration. It was accepted as city planners realised early that these two roads could significantly reduce congestion along the Colombo – Galle Road. They knew that the projects could be economically justified in terms of time saved and productivity increased for road users.

From then onwards, the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) has maintained a 60 foot street line from the Wellawatte Canal to Galle Face running almost parallel to the railway line, on the land side. At the Galle Face end, the street line ends abruptly behind the Galle Face Hotel without connecting with the Colombo – Galle Road. In fact, between Bambalapitiya and Galle Face, a substantial number of buildings are found on the street line.



In 1985, a study of the Greater Colombo Urban Transport System undertaken by Louis Berger International, Inc., as part of the Sri Lanka Transport Sector Planning Study, found that the Galle Road close to the CMC boundary (approaching Dehiwala) experienced the most traffic congestion on a regular basis. Clearly, this was a bottleneck.
The study recommended the provision of two additional lanes to this highly congested road, i.e. from Kollupitiya Junction to Dehiwala Bridge (3.7 km) and from Moratuwa to Panadura (11.2 km). It was estimated that this could save around Rs. 20 billion over a 20-year period in terms of vehicle operating and passenger time costs. In comparison, the road improvement cost at the time was Rs. 261 million – giving a high cost – benefit ratio.
In 1990, Mr. Perinpanayagam carried out a personal inspection to check the viability of the expansion. He walked from Ramakrishna Road in Wellawatte up to Milagiriya Avenue in Bambalapitiya, and found that only 17 houses were located within the street lines. Evidently, most land owners were aware of the original street lines and had allowed for the Marine Drive to be built someday.
He did a similar inspection of the extension path for Duplication Road, which at the time ended at Hildon Place (just past the Dickman’s Road intersection). He identified which private properties needed to be acquired for this parallel road to reach up to Dharamarama Road, Wellawatte. This included two well know private schools.
These findings, with rough maps drawn by him, were shared with the Ministry of Transport and Highways through the Police Department.
Later that year, the then Minister of Transport and Highways Mr. Wijayapala Mendis appointed a committee comprising officials of the Road Development Authority (RDA)CMC and Traffic Police to look into how traffic congestion could be eased on Galle Road.
Serving on the committee were: (1) Mr. A. R. M. Jayawardena, Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Highways: (2) Mr. C. R. Abeygunawardene, Senior Superintendent of Police / Traffic, Colombo: (3) Mr. T. Kanagasingham, Deputy Municipal Engineer (T), (CMC); (4) Mr. Kingsley Fernando, Deputy Director – Traffic & Planning, RDA; (5) Mr. Jayantha A. Guruge, Traffic Engineer, CMC; (6) Mr. M. G. M. Perera, Deputy Director, Highway Designs, RDA; (7) Mr. J. M. Chandradasa, Director Programming, Office of the Minister of State for Highways (as convenor); and (8) Mr. T. Perinpanayagam, Director Traffic, Police Headquarters.
Based on their recommendations, the minister submitted a Cabinet Memorandum for extending Duplication Road as well as constructing the Marine Drive.

Parts of the Marine Drive already built to lower standards (from Ramakrishna Road to Milagiriya Avenue) needed to be improved. The minister noted that local contractors could carry out all the work. In 1992, the Department of National Planning recommended the two projects, and the construction work followed.

Progress Made

Duplication Road has now been extended up to St. Peter’s College, Colombo, which has provided considerable relief to the Colombo – Galle Road traffic. However, the original street line marking for Duplication Road extends up to Aththidiya Road. Its further progress has been held up due to the lack of funds to pay compensation for private land that needs to be acquired.
The Marine Drive is now built and used between Kollupitiya Juncion and Ramakrishna Road in Wellawatte. However, the original plan – and street line demarcation – envisaged this road to stretch all the way to Dehiwala, for which a bridge has also been built over the Wellawatte canal.
Mr. Perinpanayagam acknowledges that progress thus far has been accomplished thanks to the vision and dedication of several committed public officials. Besides those who served on the committee during 1990 – 92, he mentions the names of  parliamentarian A. H. M. Fowzie; Mr. Cecil Amarasinghe (State Secretary); Principals of St. Peter’s College and Muslim Ladies’ College; RDA officials and CMC officials – all of who took the initiative in road building.
He also points out that Sri Lankan contractors have been able to handle all the planning and engineering works for these roads, meeting international standards.


Unfinished Business

Eventually, Mr. Perinpanayagam says, the Marine Drive should seamlessly connect to the Moratuwa New Road at its southern end, and be extended all the way up to Colombo Fort at the northern end. This would provide an uninterrupted parallel road to the Colombo – Galle Road, as was envisaged in 1944. The Duplication Road, meanwhile, should be extended up to Aththidiya Road.
In 2006, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa directed the Ministry of Highways to extend the Marine Drive street lines from Ramakrishna Road to the Dehiwala Railway Station. Accordingly, RDA officials have started designing these street lines. This is the unfinished business that can provide much needed relief from congestion. Local contractors could handle all the road work, and the investment would be covered within a few years by savings on fuel and time, and productivity increased.