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Nowzar Hedayati

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  • Nowzar Hedayati

Sadr Elevated Expressway

Nearly four decades ago Sadr Expressway was constructed to create an east-west connection in North of Tehran. Since then, it has always served as one of the busiest highways in the Iranian capital.

In 2011, some urban planners came up with a solution to ease the traffic on Sadr expressway. Their plan called for the construction of a second floor in the form of an elevated highway on the existing road. Although some urban planners opposed this expensive development; the project was finished in 2013, and an 11 km elevated highway was added to Sadr's infrastructure.

The construction of the second floor to an already existing structure was a huge challenge, especially since the expressway was being used during the construction. Therefore, the development had to go through with minimum disturbance to the daily traffic.

After it's completion, the flow of traffic was smooth, however, that didn't last long. As predicted by many traffic and urban experts, as well as by previous examples from all over the world; when a new highway/expressway is built in a city, the traffic flow is eased for a short period, but later it will become even worse than before.

As time went by, this project which according to some estimates have been the most expensive urban project in the Iranian History, has created more problems than just the worsening of the traffic situation. Sadr elevated expressway has been an absolute nightmare to the adjacent neighborhood. It has created nothing but increase in noise disturbance and air pollution, not to mention one of the most undesirable views. Imagine that your window now opens to an elevated concrete structure, filled with cars all day along!

This project was nothing but a political stunt for, then mayor of Tehran. It wasn't researched properly, and it wasn't designed with a long-term goal or strategy.

Tehran is a city of 12 million people and every day 3 million more people travel to the cities for jobs and services. There is literally no more room in Tehran for cars. The city has an extensive network of highway and expressway system, which is often packed with traffic jams. More highways are not the answer.

The solution to Tehran's traffic problem is to invest more in the public transportation system and its Metro system. Many experts believe that a fraction of Sadr Elevated Expressway project's budget would have had much more positive impact in reducing city's traffic jams and air pollution, if the money was invested in a new Metro line. Not to mention, the jobs that would have been created in every new Metro Stations, from ticket vendors to shop owners.

Highways, particularly the multi-tier highways are expensive to construct and even more expensive to maintain. Experience has shown that they are a short-term solution to a long-term problem. They can reduce traffic congestion for a short period. But later, they will become part of the problem.

Many cities have realized that you will reduce the car usage by the citizens when you invest in a more comfortable and extensive public transportation system, while at the same time, you make it more inconvenient for people to use cars.

Many cities have realized that when you take away space from cars and give it to "the people", not only it doesn't worsen the traffic situation, but it will improve it. This tactic encourages people to take public transportation rather than cars, and it will result in a healthier living environment, with less air pollution and noise disturbance.

Cities should be comfortable for the people and not for cars. It is we the people who elect the city politicians, and we should remind them to plan the cities for us the people.

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