Sunday, August 16, 2009

TNP : Why spend $2m on road? 16 Aug 2009

The Electric New Paper :

Road built to ease congestion from foreign workers' dorm at Serangoon Gardens, but residents now say:

Why spend $2m on road?
THEY didn't want a workers' dormitory in their estate and petitioned the Government against it.

By Desmond Ng
16 August 2009

THEY didn't want a workers' dormitory in their estate and petitioned the Government against it.

The Serangoon Gardens residents complained, citing reasons from potential social problems to security issues in their estate.

They also pointed out that with vehicles fetching workers to and from work, there would likely be traffic congestion.

So a 400m slip road - costing $2 million - to bypass the estate was built.
And what do the residents think of it?
Madam H S Tan, 61, spoke for most when she questioned if there was a need to spend so much money on a road, when a simpler solution would be to relocate the temporary dorm elsewhere.

The retiree added: 'It doesn't make sense. Why spend the extra $2 million when you could use the money to furnish other disused schools elsewhere to house the workers?
'Why not convert this school into a bazaar, or even an international school?'

Another resident, Mr Gerald Lim, 48, said that while the new road will help to divert traffic congestion going into Serangoon Gardens, especially during peak hours, it's a 'small respite', because 'the dorm will still be there'.

'There's no point discussing about the dorm because nothing is going to change,' said the businessman, whose family has lived there for about 10 years.

The access road - located right after the CTE exit at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 - opened earlier this month with little fanfare.

The dorm - a retrofitted school - has been slated to open in October. It will house male and female workers from the manufacturing and services sectors.
Many of the workers living in the dormitory will probably come from the hospitality and healthcare sectors.

They may include Chinese nationals, Malaysians and Filipinos.
Maxi Consultancy has been appointed to operate the dorm and will start retrofitting the school this month, according to a Straits Times report on 15 Jul.

The operator will provide a range of facilities, such as a mini-mart and canteen to minimise the need for the workers to access amenities outside the dormitory.

Shuttle buses will transport the workers to MRT stations during weekends and public holidays.
Residents whom The New Paper spoke to were surprised that the access road was completed so quickly - in under 10 months - after the idea for it was announced by the Ministry of National Development (MND) last October.

The road may be completed, but the complaints remain, including issues of security and safety, rowdy behaviour, competition for the use of common facilities and yes, traffic congestion.

Some residents had pointed out that Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 is already jammed during the morning peak hours, with motorists using it to avoid the electronic road pricing charges on CTE.

Having more vehicles along that road will only worsen the situation, they said, according to a Straits Times report last October.

Madam Tan, whose family has lived in the estate for over 20 years, said: 'It's not that we're trying to be high and mighty here but with the dorm right outside our houses, there will be some social problems.

'And when that happens, who has to deal with it?'

Retiree Mr K C Liew, 60, still fears that the property value of his terrace house will fall once the dorm opens. He has lived there for about 10 years. 'The security issue is still there,' he said.

There are about 4,000 households in Serangoon Gardens.
Residents of this ageing estate of landed properties first heard of the Government's plan to site the dorm in their neighbourhood last September.

Some 1,600 of them signed a petition against the dorm and gave it to National Development
Minister Mah Bow Tan.

The Ministry said a month later that it would still go ahead to convert the disused school - former Serangoon Gardens Technical School - into a dorm, but the residents' concerns would be considered.

For starters, the dorm will accommodate 600 workers at most in the beginning- any increase in capacity after that is subject to the approval of the MND.
As far as numbers go, it's certainly not the biggest.

For example, Avery Lodge, a six-storey foreign worker dormitory in Jurong, can house up to 8,000 workers, according to a Straits Times report in April.

The Serangoon Gardens access road was included in the plans to ease traffic congestion and to reassure the residents there that their estate would not be overrun by foreign workers.
Access to the dorm would also be limited via one gate, and security guards would be hired to patrol the site.

The site boundary will also be pushed back to create a buffer between the dorm and the housing estate.

After these measures were announced, some residents were still unhappy.
Some had complained about the possible noise and pollution from buses that will be plying on that road.

Others noted that none of the solutions tackled the basic concern - that of residents having to deal with 600 new foreign dwellers coming into their estate.

Blur motorists turn into slip road despite 'No Entry' sign

THIS new two-way road was supposed to alleviate traffic congestion into Serangoon Gardens.
But the slip road - located after at the CTE exit to Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1 - appears to be causing some confusion among drivers.

Some drivers, wanting to exit into Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, have mistakenly turned into the slip road, which is for authorised vehicles only.

When The New Paper was at the access road on Wednesday afternoon, we saw two cars making wrong turns into this slip road within a span of 10 minutes.
Madam H S Tan, a retiree, said she made a wrong turn there last week because of inadequate signage.

This despite a 'No Entry' sign with a 'Except Authorised Vehicles' sign below.

Madam Tan lives at Tai Hwan estate, just next to the dormitory.
'It's situated too close to the expressway and there are no signs to indicate that it doesn't lead into Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1,' she said.

'I've seen many cars making wrong turns into that road.'
Another resident, Mr Thomas Lim, 56, said: 'It's dangerous. I've seen cars braking suddenly because they've turned into the wrong road.

'What if another car was following close behind?'

- Desmond Ng