Over the New Year’s weekend, Bali saw record-breaking traffic congestion.
The situation quickly became dire as hundreds of tourists had no option but to abandon their transfer vehicles and walk along the Mandara Toll Road hard shoulder to get to the airport on time.
Officials in Bali have been clear that this station cannot be allowed to happen again. Although an emergency shuttle bus service was put in place to help alleviate pressure on the roads over the final days of the peak season, leaders now want to see long-term and sustainable solutions to this ever-evolving problem.
A stakeholder meeting was held on Tuesday 9th January to discuss how a disaster such as the New Year traffic chaos can be avoided in the future.
The National Police Traffic Corps together with Jasa Raharja, the Ministry of Transportation, Angkasa Pura I, Region IV Airport Authority, and other airport stakeholders also held a coordination meeting to make a strategic plan.
One of the key factors that led to the monster traffic jams around Bali Airport, but especially on the Mandara Toll Road was a massive underestimation of the number of vehicles that would be using the route.
Predictions suggested that just over 35,000 vehicles would be using the road daily during the peak Christmas and New Year travel days, but over New Year over 70,000 vehicles piled onto the highway daily.
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The meeting was chaired by the Head of the National Police Traffic Corps, Inspector General Pol Aan Suhanan.
He told reporters after the meeting that several avoidable factors created the traffic congestion over the New Year’s weekend. He said that moving forward more can be done to mitigate similar circumstances happening again.
Inspector General Suhanan said “Talking about traffic is talking about networks. So anything can cause traffic jams. Officers who are slow to respond can cause traffic jams. Apart from that, during the Bali holidays, it is always crowded with tourists, both domestic and foreign.”
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The group discussed short, medium, and long-term solutions to island-wide tourism traffic used but focused on the flow of vehicles from resorts in and out of I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport.
The short-term solution is to engineer traffic around the airport. Angkasa Pura I, the stae-woened enterprise that managed Bali Airport has also committed to making changes and improvements, such as building a crossing bridge and changing the curved road near the international terminal so that it no longer slows down vehicles.
Inspector General Suhanan told reporters “I received information from the GM of Angkasa Pura I that he will carry out several new traffic flows within the airport.”
“For example, eliminating crossings and moving taxi pools. The aim is to not disrupt access to and from the airport, which can trigger traffic jams.”
In the longer term, officials discussed the need to create a dedicated lane for airport-bound vehicles on the toll road and to implement a permanent traffic engineering system to better support traffic flow around the central south of Bali.
Suhanan said, “In accordance with information from the Bali Province, we will create special access from the toll road to the airport. Whether this access will be in the form of an underpass or creating a new road, the Bali Provincial Government will carry out a study. We hope this can be realized.”
It is evident that these solutions need to be implemented quickly. 2024 is set to be Bali’s busiest year on record, finally surpassing travel figures from before the pandemic.
Although borders reopened to Indonesia in February 2022, the flight schedule at Bali Airport is still operating just below what it was before the pandemic.
2024 is the year that Bali is set to be fully recovered and welcome 7 million international arrivals, the vast majority of whom will land at Bali Airport rather than enter the province through seaports.
With this in mind, the General Manager of I Gusti Ngurah Rai Handy International Airport, Heryudhitiawan, added that to anticipate traffic jams in the airport area, his party will add lanes and arrange more passenger drop-off zones.
He said “There are more lanes at the airport. Now there are two, later there will be three or four. Later there will be improvements to the flow of vehicles, in the international parking building.”
“Indeed, there are bends that are quite broken, causing queues, so we will make the flow smoother so that the flow is better.”
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