Kasetsart up in arns over expressway expansion
Kasetsart University is upping its campaign against an expressway project, whose towering structure will be built near its south wall along Ngarmwongwan Road, by seeking greater support from nearby communities.At a recent seminar on the issue, resident lecturers and independent academics voiced their unanimous opposition to the Bt120-billion project, with the head of the Thai City Planners' Association calling for the entire project, dubbed N1 Extension, to be scrapped - not just a section that is slated to be built near the university compound.
Association head Assoc Prof Ekkarin Anukoolyuththon said it was not practical to build an elevated road above a main thoroughfare that linked key intersections in the heart of Bangkok. "The elevated structure will result in a crisis in the city's physical structure throughout the distance of the N1 Extension," he added.
KU is seeking support from people living nearby and those residing across Ngarmwongwan Road in its campaign against the N1 Extension project. Seminar speakers also criticised the Expressway Authority of Thailand (EXAT) for not being open to suggestion on other options, including building an underpass along Ngarmwongwan Road, which EXAT claimed would require a sixfold hike in budget.
Assoc Prof Kowit Wongsurawat at KU's Faculty of Social Science, said it was not right to stick to a policy issue made 30 years ago without adjusting to ever-changing designs in present city planning.
The entire 16.6-km N1 project stretches from the Bang Khen intersection at the southeast corner of the KU compound to Bang Rak Yai area in northwest Nonthaburi. The EXAT claims that it will also serve as a main road linking the western and eastern outskirts of Bangkok to accommodate extra traffic volume when the Asean Economic Community takes effect, or when the Dawei project in Myanmar fully grows in the near future.
KU rector Assoc Prof Wutthichai Kapolkarn said the elevated road over Ngarmwongwan would be 28 metres in height, or equivalent to a 10-storey building, and 27 metres in width. The towering structure, apart from being an eyesore, will result in KU and nearby Vibhavadi Hospital suffering from noise, dust and sediment, and lead from exhaust pipes permanently.
The nine copper cod trees, the highly revered symbol of KU, grown by His Majesty will also be affected, with them being shaded from the sun by the elevated road, he added.
Assoc Wiroj Rujopakarn of KU's Faculty of Engineering, dismissed the EXAT claim that pillars it had built in nearby areas, which would accommodate the 9.2-km N2 Extension, would be wasted if the N1 was not built, saying that this excuse was both wrong and illogical. "A planned extension of Krungthep Bridge collapsed as the pillars were built well in advance," he added.
Countering accusations from the EXAT and pro-N1 people that KU was being selfish, Wiroj said KU had donated 91 rai of its land for road projects and other government structures.
A KU Faculty of Engineering lecturer, Suphaphorn Kaewkor Leopairoj, said the pillars could be used to accommodate mass transit projects, such as rail-based commuter trains instead of the elevated road useful only to vehicles.