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Africa’s Second-largest Bridge Closed for Repairs

The Third Mainland Bridge extends nearly 12 kilometres to link Lagos Island, the business heart of the city, with the mainland where most people live. When it was built in 1990, Nigeria’s economic engine had just six million residents. Today, its population has more than tripled and the bridge is saturated, with tens of thousands of vehicles crossing each day. Commuting on the road has become nightmare, synonymous outrageous traffic jams during rush hour. After a period of somewhat lighter traffic in light of the COVID-19 containment restrictions, the government announced — out of the blue, the partial closing of the city’s main bridge, Third Mainland, for a construction project to prevent its supposed impending total collapse. However, many say the bridge is all they have. The other two bridges to Lagos Island cannot absorb the extra traffic, especially as one is also partially closed for repairs. The huge dependence on a 30-year-old structure crystallises Lagos’s chronic traffic problems. A string of grand schemes to improve public transport have been unveiled in recent years, only to gather dust on urban planners’ shelves. A case in point is the light rail project that was supposed to relieve pressure on the bridges. After years of delays, work on the project appears to have halted completely. Ferries are an obvious option, but a lack of infrastructure and safety worries complicate their development.