Overhaul the project 7017

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Overhaul the project 7017

In August, 2009, then Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon announced a plan to build six-lines of passenger car-only underground road network totaling 149 kilometers (93 miles). It was named “U Smart Way.”

The project is to cost 11 trillion won ($9.18 billion), including private capital, and phased competition would begin in 2017. Once the underground roads are completed, he assured that traffic jams would be drastically reduced, allowing cars to travel anywhere in Seoul within 30 minutes. Oh strongly advocated the plan, “If there are people willing to pay a fee to travel faster, we have the duty to fulfill their demands.”

But his plan was met with great concerns. People were worried about traffic accidents or fire in the unprecedented extensive underground road network. Some pointed out that passing through the underground path swiftly would only lead to traffic jam at the exit. Also, it was against the policy to promote mass transit over car travel.

However, the city of Seoul did not have clear answers. Once it announced the plan first, the city officials researched similar projects in other countries to benchmark. The project was scrapped as Oh resigned in August, 2011 after the referendum on free school meal program. If not, the controversy would have continued.

Thinking about U Smart Way leads to the Seoul Station 7017, an overpass park project. They have a lot in common. Mayor Park Won-soon announced a plan to turn the overpass into a park in September 2014. Instead of removing the overpass, it will be reinforced and repaired to transform into a pedestrian park by April 2017.

Merchants at nearby Namdaemun Market are opposing the plan, and there are questions about the idea. First of all, I wonder how the city will deal with the traffic jam in the area without constructing alternative roads.

For now, police and drivers are helping out to help the traffic flow, but we cannot rely on them forever. The seasonal factor cannot be ignored. How many people will visit the overpass park in the middle of the winter or sizzling summer?

The design of the park chosen in the international contest doesn’t seem to have big trees to provide shades. Considering the weight that pillars of the overpass can handle, small potted trees are to be placed. What if the homeless people from the Seoul Station area move to the park? There are no clear answers to these questions and concerns.

Once a road or a park is made, it is not easy to undo. Whether one likes it or not, the impact is on the people of Seoul. These projects should not be pushed recklessly. The city needs to review the concerns and seek solutions. And the project can move forward when we are confident. It is a way to avoid unnecessary debate and waste of budget.

The author is an editor of People & Section of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 7, Page 30

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