Wong Wian Yai has been an iconic landmark in Thon Buri for many decades, but now it's come under the microscope of City Hall which is keen to give it a facelift and to prepare it for pedestrian underpasses.
Wong Wian Yai circle, an iconic landmark of Thon Buri, will undergo a facelift under City Hall’s plan to beautify the area. A highlight of the plan will be the construction of two pedestrian underpasses, which will be used to showcase cultural exhibitions and activities. PAWAT LAOPAISARNTAKSIN
The busy circle, marked by the Monument of King Taksin, is included in the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's renovation plans designed to beautify Wong Wian Yai's surroundings and remove constructions that hinder the view of the King Taksin statue.
The plan, given tentative approval by city councillors in 2010, involves a feasibility study of new pedestrian underpasses to replace nine footbridges near Wong Wian Yai which "obscure the view of the statue and must be removed", said Thaweesak Lertprapan, deputy chief of the city's Public Works Department.
The bridges are located on Prajadhipok Road adjacent to Phra Phuttha Yotfa Bridge (the Memorial Bridge), and Somdet Phrachao Taksin Road, which is not far from the Wong Wian Yai skytrain station.
The city has hired Kasetsart University's faculty of engineering to design the new underpasses.
The design team has made considerable progress. After his latest inspection of the design, Mr Thaweesak said: "We can now say this [design] study is close to taking its final shape."
Experts on the team suggest the city build two underpasses with a combined length of two kilometres. A 1.5-km section will be built underneath Prajadhipok and Somdet Phrachao Taksin roads while another 500-metre path will be under the Ban Khaek intersection where Prajadhipok Road meets Itsaraphap Road.
The underpasses will protect pedestrians better than the zebra crossings, Mr Thaweesak said.
"So underpasses will be the safest for them."
The project will allow the city to clear the vicinity of Wong Wian Yai of footbridge clutter, while the underpasses will be large enough to accommodate exhibitions.
"The underpasses can be used as a venue for cultural and historical exhibitions to promote tourism," Mr Thaweesak said.
Such creative space development is desired because Bangkokians and foreign tourists can easily reach the longer underpass at Somdet Phrachao Taksin Road, where exhibitions can be staged, via the skytrain or a new subway in the future.
The government is planning to build a 21-km subway from the Tao Pun area in Bangkok to Phra Pradaeng in neighbouring Samut Prakan. Along its route are stations at Wong Wian Yai and Ban Khaek intersection.
However, despite all the positive points of the project, the Public Works Department wants to know what city folk think about it and whether they will embrace the new construction.
It has held four public hearings and meetings to inform people of the plan since May last year.
The participants were given questionnaires at the end of the talks to gauge their reactions to the project.
Mr Thaweesak said an average of 77.5% of people who responded to each of the three surveys on the project agreed with the need to renovate the area.
A total of 171 people took part in the surveys.
Their reactions are a morale booster for the project designers who are due to complete it before the end of this year.
The department will consider the project details before forwarding blueprints to city administrators for final approval.
The administrators had been expected to decide on the issue earlier but the aftermath of the 2011 flooding disaster in Bangkok and the Bangkok governor election in March held up the process.
Mr Thaweesak said he cannot estimate the budget for the project at this point because the price will depend on the scale of development to be decided by city administrators.
There is also an additional proposal to construct a two-lane vehicle underpass connecting Somdet Phrachao Taksin Road with Prajadhipok Road, Mr Thaweesak said.
While the pedestrian underpasses will be of clear benefit to the area in terms of practicality and aesthetics, it won't be until next year before the Public Works Department will have any idea whether it will get the go-ahead.
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- Writer: Supoj Wancharoen