The Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit Company Ltd (Dhaka BRT) authorities yesterday advised commuters in Dhaka to avoid the Airport Road for 72 hours from Thursday evening, sparking outrage and worries among city residents and flight passengers.
A special traffic advisory signed by BRT Project Director ASM Elias Shah reads that development work in the area for the project would be continued from 6pm on Thursday (24 November) till 6pm on Sunday (27 November).
Thus, all forms of public and private vehicles have been requested to use alternative routes, although the Airport Road won't be closed to the public.
The Airport Road is one of the city's main arteries, connecting the industries in Gazipur, Mymensingh and surrounding areas to the capital.
It is also the only road through which the country's largest airport can be reached.
Elias Shah told The Business Standard, "We are not blocking the full road. We are going to do maintenance works on the roads adjacent to the Airport Railway Station. Two lanes of the four-lane road will remain open. Traffic going towards Mohakhali from Uttara or Tongi will be diverted to another lane in this area. The traffic from Mohakhali towards Tongi will move as usual."
He said no vehicles would be prevented from using the road, but due to fewer lanes available, there would be increased congestion.
"Considering this, we have advised people to reschedule their journeys if possible."
Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Deputy Commissioner (Uttara Traffic Division) Nabid Kamal Shoibal also told TBS that the road wouldn't be completely closed.
"There is no reason for flight passengers to worry," he added.
Past experience, however, has left commuters nervous.
Shefan Al Emon, a university graduate whose father had a flight for Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, said they were delayed by more than 1.5 hours due to traffic congestion on the Airport Road.
"We left home at 6:30am and were stuck just in front of Le Meridien hotel for more than one hour," he said.
"My father was very sick and could not walk to the airport. How can one know there would be traffic congestion even just after the Fazr prayers?" Emon said.
He said he saw many passengers resorting to walking instead of risking missing their flights.
Meanwhile, Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Traffic Division has suggested some different routes to avoid possible traffic congestion.
These are the newly-constructed road under the metro rail track from Mirpur DOHS to Uttara through Diabari; the Mirpur Beribadh to Abdullahpur or the Beribadh-Diabari-Uttara route; the ECB Chattar via Manikdi-Baunia-Uttara Jasimuddin.
Thousands of people have suffered intensifying gridlocks since the BRT project began around a decade ago.
The Airport Road is also the only way to reach the country's largest airport in Dhaka, which has no connecting roads or any diversions.
Md Fazle Rabbii, a private job holder, who commutes to work in Tongi, said he has been using the Mirpur Beribadh route for the past three and a half years instead of the Airport Road to avoid traffic jams.
"Our employers have arranged transportation on both routes – Airport Road and Mirpur Beribadh, so eventually we decided to go to the factory through Mirpur Beribadh," he said.
He said the morning journey takes 40 minutes to an hour, but coming back it can take an hour or more.
"Sometimes it can take three to four hours. But at least you can come back on that route. With the Airport Road, there's no guarantee."