The stretch of Tubman Boulevard and side streets from as far as Sinkor, Old Road, Airfield and some other areas were locked down due to congestion yesterday as a result of Smythe Institute’s graduation exercises at the Winners Chapel Church in the Oldest Congo Town.
The traffic lockdown, which lasted for nearly four hours, caused some people to miss their flights from Roberts International Airport (RIA), while other commuters were severely delayed.
“I am frustrated because I have only 15 minutes left to check in at the RIA for my flight to the United States,” Mrs. Mary Jones, who revealed she was traveling to the USA to attend her aunt’s funeral, said.
“If I miss today’s flight, it will cause me serious embarrassment as the burial of my aunt is slated for tomorrow (today) in Texas,” she said.
Three taxi drivers, John Borbor, Francis Paye and Joseph Toe expressed frustrations because of the time spent from Old Road junction to Winners Chapel Church. They said they wasted useful time they could have spent plying other routes.
Officials of the Winners Chapel church could not be reached to respond to questions about who was responsible for the traffic congestion as a result of the use of their edifice for the graduation.
While Police Deputy A.B. Kromah and his men strove to undo yesterday’s traffic gridlock, impatient passengers disembarked vehicles and opted to walk to seek relief from the ugly situation. Relief finally came when a few officers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) were deployed to assist the few police officers attempting to break the traffic impasse.
The soldiers directed all vehicles from the Sinkor region to the detour of Congo Town; a plan that opened up the congested traffic.
Police spokesman Sam Collins told Daily Observer via mobile phone that the inconvenience caused by the heavy traffic was unprecedented and highly regrettable.
Mr. Collins said the Liberia National Police got no firsthand information on the Smythe Institute’s graduation and other graduations and ceremonies that were also ongoing yesterday along the Tubman Boulevard.
“We apologize to all of our citizens and other nationals who had the challenging experience and call on Winners Chapel and all other institutions along the main streets to inform the LNP of their ceremonies in case they will not have the capacity to control the movements of vehicles and people during those events,” Collins said.
He said the LNP will consult with the church in order to see to it that what happened yesterday won’t be repeated.
And consult the church they must, for yesterday’s traffic gridlock is in fact a repeat. In December 2015, Smythe Institute’s graduation, also held at Winner’s Chapel, shut down traffic on a Saturday afternoon. By the time police arrived on the scene that day, the gridlock was so massive that it took about three hours to undo.
With such recurrent lack of coordination between institutions and authorities, many are wondering what plans the police have to anticipate the traffic that would be created during the construction, dedication/opening and use of inter-ministerial complex located directly opposite Winner’s Chapel at the site of the old Defense Ministry.