As the sun peeks over the horizon, commuters traverse the 19-kilometre stretch of road that links the Harbour City of Tema to Accra, a reminder of the grand design of Kwame Nkrumah, the country’s first president, linking major towns and cities.
After 56 years of use, the Accra-Tema Motorway has outlived its purpose but remains the only one in the country that is serving the growing population of commuters and transit trucks transporting goods from the Tema port to countries like Burkina Faso and Mali.
Indeed, it is sad, and a testament of our collective failure as a country that the motorway has deteriorated beyond recognition, with deep potholes, some of which have been patched with bitumen, eroded with time and the elements, leaving the free lane in a dangerous state.
While the Tema to Accra stretch remains the more deplorable, the portion around the Ashaiman tollbooth, where transit trucks park on the shoulders, sometimes for hours, has been destroyed by potholes, while erosion has also eaten into the edges.
The stretch just before the Abattoir Bridge, which was recently fixed, has developed potholes that force drivers to slow down, creating traffic congestion all the way to the Ashaiman under-bridge area during peak hours.
On four occasions, while monitoring activities on the motorway for a series of articles, I came across vehicular accidents, one of which resulted in injuries to the victims.
On my most recent tour of the motorway in November last year, a tanker truck driver, Raymond Nkrumah, who was seen stranded on the Tema-Accra side, with his vehicle in a ditch, said he had loaded the truck with diesel from the Bulk Oil and Storage Transportation (BOST) Limited in Tema and was headed for Kumasi when the truck hit a pothole, resulting in the removal of the tyre rod.
“I hit a pothole and my tyre rod came off, tossing the vehicle from one side to the other before entering the ditch,” he said.
That experience, he said, was scary.
There is also growing indiscipline on the part of road users, with illegal activities such as road diversions, illegal U-turns, illegal bus stops, the dumping of refuse, farming alongside the stretch, among others, resulting in pedestrian knockdowns, car crashes and the deterioration of the motorway.
A policeman once told me how he was overwhelmed by the spate of indiscipline on the stretch and sometimes was forced to look the other way.
“Our people are too stubborn, my brother, drivers behave like children that you have to babysit and like you can see, I am alone here,” the policeman said, with stress and sweat on his face.
The absence of illumination on some sections of the road, especially after dark, is another cause for concern due to the fact that half of the street lamps are currently not working.
The lack of visibility creates a hazardous situation, exposing drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to potential risks and is a major issue that needs to be addressed to ensure the safety of everyone using the road.
Since December 2020, I have focused on safety on the motorway and produced six stories to highlight some of the acts of indiscipline that portend danger for road users as well as the bad state of the road.
Three of the stories have since won local and international awards but the situations highlighted have only become worse. And that cuts deep into my heart.
As a journalist, my business is to shed light on situations that need to be addressed. Yet my personal philosophy on journalism is that stories are useless if they don’t resolve issues.
The first story: “Motorway menace on increase”, focused on some of the illegal activities perpetrated by both motorists and squatters along the motorway.
That was followed in January this year by another, “Indiscipline unabated: Accra-Tema Motorway without rules”, which also threw light on the indiscipline on the motorway that was threatening the safety of road users.
Another story: “The lights go dim: Accra-Tema Motorway in focus”, was published on April 15, 2021, to highlight the concerns of motorists over visibility on the motorway and how challenging it was to drive on it at night.
After the publication, the Director-General of the Ghana Standards Authority, Professor Alex Dodoo, told the Daily Graphic that the streetlights did not conform to the country’s standard for street lighting.
That revelation was then captured in a follow-up story with the headline: “Motorway lights substandard — GSA”, which was published on April 16, 2021.
Our attention then shifted to the state of the motorway with a story that was published on June 1, 2022, with the headline: “A year on: Accra-Tema Motorway still in bad shape”.
Each of the stories was published with a number of photos to signal the urgency to restore the motorway to improve safety.
For the revival of the motorway, the government holds the key to the reconstruction due to the financial commitment involved, and there should be no excuses.
But I am optimistic that the motorway can pay for its reconstruction when it is properly tolled and the revenue from it well managed.