Tags Posts tagged with "highway"

highway

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For no clear reason, a major highway was closed during morning rush hour today. Police officers and vehicles blocked entrances as seen above. Other sections were merely closed with barricades and steel cables:

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One entrance was even blocked by a civilian car with the trunk open:

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The result was a massive pileup, adding an extra half hour to the morning commute for thousands of drivers coming from the suburbs to Beirut.

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I finally found one entrance to the highway through an alley that was not blocked so I decided to have a look.   Turned out, the road was totally empty, no hazards, no construction, no road works:

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We drove along the road for about two kilometers until a police man appeared and again directed us off the highway. He seemed alarmed and told me to exit quickly. “Why is the road closed,” I asked. “I don’t know, we just have orders to close it,” he replied.

One thing is clear: there’s been a lot of security on the roads today as politicians scurry around to their respective houses to negotiate cabinet positions, or as many Lebanese say “to cut the cake” (of corruption).

Could it be that the highway was closed to allow politicians to travel quickly to expedite their business dealings without having to get stuck in the traffic that average citizens have to face on a daily basis? In fact, politicians regularly create massive traffic jams with their fleets of convoys or by blocking busy roads around their houses for “security purposes.”

Maybe it’s time someone did some calculations to find out how many hours average Lebanese spend in traffic to make life easier for politicians. With the same politicians failing to provide Lebanese citizens with the most basic services such as water, electricity or public transportation, would their ease of movements survive a true cost-benefit analysis?

Or maybe politicians could pick up the phone sometimes or use Skype? Would any of them sacrifice face time and portfolio negotiations for the greater good?

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After years of darkness it seems the northern suburbs of Beirut will finally be lit up at night. Like most highways in Lebanon, the street lamps in the Dora area are constantly turned out due to electricity cuts. Finally, someone seems to have decided to rely on the sun instead of the failing national power company. And it’s hard to imagine why this wasn’t done years ago.

But the solar panels are set up only on a small patch of highway.

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They seem quite close together:

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Maybe because they don’t give out a lot of light?

The work began a few weeks ago.

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The company is called Irsal Telecom Solutions Provider, as seen on the truck:

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I wonder if anyone knows more about this company or the cost/duration of this contract and whether it will be expanded to other areas. Sadly, there exists no publicly accessible database or website listing government projects–at least to my knowledge–so that the public can keep track of such projects and know how their money is being spent. Because as it stands, most citizens will know only about what they see with their eyes after it has been paid for and executed.

Poles are now going up in the Nahr El Mawt area. Could this be the next site of solar panel lighting?

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Let’s hope these lights will be effective and properly maintained. Can you imagine if the whole national highway was lit up at night? One can dream.

UPDATE:

Shortly after posting this, I noticed that only a handful of the new lamps were working tonight:

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Maybe they are still installing them?

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It’s easy to get the depressed with all the violence in the news these days and the knee-jerk jingoism to accompany it. But it’s nice to know love still finds a way in Beirut, somehow.

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The Lebanese police are celebrating their 153rd anniversary. At a commemoration event, the head of the force pledged officers would continue to serve all citizens and be ‘above’ sectarian and political divides.

But will they also be above the law? These banners thanking the police for their “service and sacrifice” were posted on the coastal highway, blocking major traffic signs. The banners are sponsored by local municipalities as indicated in small print below.

Yes being a police officer in Lebanon is not easy and many probably do work tirelessly, sweating profusely at intersections and enduring insults of thuggish citizens while trying to direct traffic. At the same time, there are also many accounts of torture and abuse. And many instances of flouting laws, such as blaring sirens for no reason but to get through traffic. The idea that municipalities can also flout the law to curry favor with the force (or other political parties) is a metaphor for the everyday lawlessness police so often either willingly tolerate or are too intimidated to crack down upon.

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Watch the video below as this bus driver barely looks at the highway while texting for almost 20 seconds: 

The video was shot by my friend, photographer George Haddad when catching a bus in the Nahr El Mawt area. The bus seems to be marked “15” on the windshield. Hopefully the driver can be located, as was the case recently in the US when a school bus driver was caught on camera by a student.

I’m also posting this because texting has become endemic on Lebanese highways. Sometimes it feels like every other driver is texting or scrolling when you look around in traffic.

The issue was raised last year when pop star Haifa Wehbe was cast as a spokesmodel for the much-hyped “Don’t text and drive campaign” organized with the help of a former minister. But with zero law enforcement proposals, the campaign seems to have amounted to little more than a publicity stunt.

So what is stopping the police from pulling over and fining such drivers?

I’ve written about bus safety in the past–also at issue are the open doors on buses even when driving at highway speeds. I wonder what our transport minister makes of all this. Does he have an opinion?

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Note: This cell phone video does no justice to George’s stellar photography work. See the link above and visit his Facebook page for great images. 

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The Lebanese Forces is really serious about promoting its new magazine Al Massira.  Not only has the party canvassed nearly every pedestrian bridge, rooftop and billboard along the highway: 

They have also branded the highway itself:
I’ve always wondered if the Lebanese Forces–or any other Lebanese parties– actually pay anyone for such ads. And it’s not just highways. The LF and others routinely hang their posters and flags on highway light posts, even employing sophisticated crane crews in the process. 
Surely, such esteemed parties would not claim public space without a proper permit. I’m interested to see how “Al Massira” which promises to cover citizens’s everyday issues, will take on the everyday appropriation of public space. 
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Correction: Al Massira is not a new magazine per se; it is a re-launch as the publication, which began publishing in the 1980s, was shut down in the early post-war years. Thanks Leila

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    Here is a series of pictures just published by Save Beirut Heritage, which is campaigning to stop what it says is the imminent demolition of some 30 heritage buildings for the Fouad Boutros highway project.

    Also at stake is the clearing of a wide swath of some of Beirut’s last undeveloped green spaces. The works could endanger dozens more old buildings, SBH claims.

    SBH says it had proposed a park, but that plan seems to have been rejected.

    More to come…

    UPDATE: I’ve just spoken to the lead engineer and he says the project will begin “in about a month.”

    Update: You can read my full report on the project in The Daily Star here

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      I counted at least 20 trucks with Syrian plates parked on the side of the highway yesterday on my way to Tripoli.

      They were parked just around the corner from the major army checkpoint near Madfoun, about half way from Beirut to Tripoli.

      I’m not sure what they were carrying–the loads were covered tightly–or if they were coordinating with the army just up the road due to the spate of violence against Syrian truckers from anti-regime protestors.

      The only thing that was clear was the potential road hazard with the trucks taking up some of the right lane amid the already insanely fast and aggressive drivers that are constantly try to pass one another on this farm-road sized autobahn. With little to no functioning street lights coupled with the blinding brights of oncoming drivers, it must be even more dangerous at night.

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        Because who needs regulations like keeping doors shut while driving down the highway when you can just put a sticker of Jesus on them.

        And Mary and St. Charbel everywhere else:

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          Majestic, picturesque and just a little bit dangerous at night with no signs to warn you the road ends ahead.

          Zaarour, Mount Lebanon