The Road to Nowhere

I'm feelin' okay this mornin'
And you know
We're on a road to paradise
Here we go, here we go
~ Talking Heads

Jakarta’s Jalan Casablanca is not nearly as exotic as its name might suggest - but it is one of the city’s safest streets. Not that its users don’t want to drive like maniacs – they most certainly do – but that the seemingly endless traffic congestion has reduced vehicle speeds to such a crawl that you can drive whilst texting or reading a book and still have plenty of time to brake and avoid hitting whatever is in front of you.

It’s in this maelstrom of collective madness that I notice a ramp to an elevated roadway ahead of me. It’s not blocked off but the cars seem to know that the road is off limits. I cycle up it.

Work on the elevated road – which runs for much of the length of Jalan Casablanca linking Kampung Melayu in East Jakarta to Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta - started a few years ago.

But while two of the three main sections of the road were eventually completed – more or less – one of them was not. And with huge concrete blocks still missing the contractor left the job unfinished. Walked away. Just like that! Insane - even by Jakarta’s wacky standards - although by no means without precedent (the half-baked attempt at building an MRT etc).

The unfinished section is the most ambitious of the three and huge pillars are needed to support the road as it soars high over Jalan Sudirman below it.

So why has this section not been finished? Defending itself, the constructor claims it hasn’t been paid.

But on the other side, the city administration counters that the project should have been finished by the end of 2012 and it will need to conduct an audit before it can release any funds in 2013.

Digging a bit deeper and I discover that the contractor (Istaka Karya) has had a deeply troubled past and should, theoretically at least, have been declared bankrupt in 2011 with calculated assets of Rp 120 billion but debts of Rp 1.19 trillion.

After cycling along the first two sections of the elevated road I come to the Istaka Karya section where a huge gap lies in front of me.

I pause for breath before heading back. Hold on a sec. Have those two sections been built at a different height?!!!! 


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