Heavy traffic congestion on the Airport Road, which had gripped the northern part of the capital since Wednesday night, turned into a nightmare for commuters as the gridlock continued for hours on Thursday.
The devotees attending this year's Ijtema intensified the already overwhelmed traffic load in the area, Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Joint Commissioner (Traffic) Abu Saleh Md Raihan told The Business Standard (TBS).
The first phase of the Bishwa Ijtema – the second-largest congregation of Muslims – is set to begin on Friday (13 January) on the bank of the Turag River at Tongi.
Starting from the Gazipur-Tongi area, the gridlock extended beyond the Ijtema area to the capital's Mohakhali, Rampura and Mirpur's Kalshi areas.
Abu Saleh Md Raihan said traffic on the 22-kilometre-long stretch from Tongi to Mohakhali remained stagnant till Thursday noon. Vehicular movements started to become normal from around 12 pm after additional traffic police personnel were deployed along the road.
Commuters, especially office-goers, to and from those areas seemed to suffer a lot during the morning rush hours due to intense tailbacks.
Sanzida Akter, a resident of the Mirpur area who works at Le Meridien hotel, had to wait around three and half hours to reach her Khilhet office from Mirpur.
"I am lucky that I was travelling on an official transport vehicle. Otherwise, I probably had to walk on foot to reach the destination or return home," she told The Business Standard.
The hotelier executive also talked about the sufferings of thousands of people in the gridlock from Kalshi to the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
"I saw many outbound air passengers leaving their vehicles and walking along the sidewalks to reach the Airport on time, carrying heavy luggage on their shoulders," she added.
According to traffic control sources, a U-tern in Tongi and heavy pressure of vehicles on the narrow Ashulia road are to blame for this concurring traffic congestion on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway.
Mohammad Saiful Malik, an assistant commissioner of Traffic Police Uttara Division, told TBS, "The Bishwa Ijtema, after a two-year hiatus, has aggravated the Tongi bound traffic on Uttara road, an area already squeezed by the segmented construction of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. All these have contributed to the worsened traffic situation in the area."