The issue of the "roof" road in Asoke has heated up this week with Sukhumvit residents rolling up their sleeves for a fight with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA).
The residents, who have come together under a group called "Rak Asoke", said they have learnt the consultants commissioned by the BMA for 22 million baht to conduct a feasibility study for the project have now submitted their final reports to the agency.
The reports say the BMA should go ahead with the five-billion-baht project (three billion baht for construction and another two billion for land appropriation) despite resistance from residents.
The reports are to be challenged by residents at a meeting with BMA officials and the consultants tomorrow at the Siam Society.
Last Friday, noted scholar Sulak Sivaraksa wrote to Bangkok governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra, urging him to abandon the Asoke plan which he labelled "insane".
Lending support to the embattled residents are leading civic groups which reminded MR Sukhumbhand that the plan would go against his election campaign promise _ that he would try to reduce the use of private cars in the city to ease traffic congestion.
Oraya Sutabutr, of the Big Trees Project and Quiet Bangkok Group, is right in arguing that the elevated structure would simply encourage people to use private cars, which would further aggravate traffic. But where's the governor? Since the issue became news several months ago, we have not heard a single word from him.
While the governor keeps silent on the issue, his subordinate, a senior official at the Public Works Department, has done the opposite.
Thawisak Lertprapan, deputy chief of the Public Works Department, didn't wait for the reports. In an interview early this month, about three weeks before the final reports were finished, he insisted the 4km elevated road was necessary and said he would submit the blueprint proposal to the governor later this year.
The official said the BMA needed to stick to its original plan _ to complete the ringroad with the elevated part. Asoke, he said, was a traffic bottleneck and the elevated road would help boost its capacity from the current 35,000 cars a day to about 120,000.
Mr Thawisak did not mention the concerns of residents, especially the impact on the environment and their livelihoods. Nor did he consider the alternatives proposed by the locals _ that the BMA focus on traffic management and encourage the use of the mass transit systems _ to improve traffic flow. He just kept insisting the impact will be limited.
Somehow, Mr Thawisak's stance on the project is no surprise. The official is staying true to himself and his profession _ after all, his main responsibility as defined in his BMA job description is to pursue large infrastructure projects.
It comes as no surprise either that the consultants _ Asian Engineering Consultants (AEC) and two other companies _ concluded the BMA should give the project the go-ahead.
I have learnt that AEC could end up being a candidate for the job of project construction consultant. This is perhaps the main reason consultants would never suggest opposing plans. Somkiat Triamchaeng-arun, of AEC, did not deny his company would compete in the project bidding.
The process does raise questions about transparency and the reports' objectivity. It's not unusual for consultants to reach conclusions on a study that could eventually benefit them. While some may argue this is not against the law, I am pretty sure it is a conflict of interest.
So, yes governor, we would like to hear at least a few words from you.
Ploenpote Atthakor is Deputy Editorial Pages Editor, Bangkok Post.