By Joel Thomas

As anybody who’s recently been from Europe to Asia and back by road, or watches any Turkish news at all knows very well, Istanbul bridge traffic at the moment is crazy, crazy, crazy.

So how did it come to this? Well, the Marmaray project (an underwater metro line between Europe and Asia) was supposed to be finished by 2010, but they kept coming across Byzantine shipwrecks. The government says it’ll be open in October 2013. They were also going to build the third Bosphorus bridge before they started maintenance work on the existing two, but then they decided they just couldn’t wait.

But as the Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım says, “If, God forbid, the bridge should collapse, nobody’s going to say, ‘It’s a good thing the minister kept the traffic levels down!’”. Indeed.

 

What exactly is happening?

At the moment they’re working on the second Bosphorus bridge – Fatih Sultan Mehmet (FSM) – and the Golden Horn (Haliç) bridge, leaving the repair work on the first Bosphorus Bridge (Boğaziçi) to next year. They’re ripping up the road, galvanizing the underlying steel structure with zinc and then insulating it, which presumably explains why the repaired lanes look bright red before they tarmac them.

In the beginning FSM traffic was horrible. They had to close 3 lanes out of 8, but now they’ve worked out how to keep 6 lanes open at all times. Thanks to the rediscovered magic of contraflow the traffic isn’t as bad as it was in late June/early July, but it’s still nasty. At least they let you go through the toll booths for free as compensation for your long, sweaty wait.

Of course, everybody’s trying to beat the traffic on FSM by using the Bosphorus Bridge, so everywhere is busy. Best thing is, the government hopes the work will be finished by 17 September!

Travel tips

If you’re going by car, check the Traffic Volume Map (Yoğunluk Haritası) before you go to help you decide which bridge to use.

If you’re on public transport the most scenic route is the ferry. Here is a map and a timetable for the routes run by IDO, which include a car ferry between Sirkeci and Harem. There is also a privately-run ferry called Dentur that runs once every ten minutes between Kabataş, and Üsküdar, which does accept Istanbulkarts and Akbils.

The Metrobüs is also a good option, because it has a dedicated road that beats most of the traffic queues leading up to the bridge. From Taksim, take the metro two stops to Şişli-Mecidiyeköy, and you’re there. The last stop on the Asian side, Söğütlüçeşme, is about 20 minutes walk from Kadıköy.

For other bus routes use the IETT journey planner. If you’re going to bus it across the second bridge, FSM, take the metro to 4. Levent and catch a 122S, E-3, or 522ST.

With the two bridges due for maintenance work, the ferry is one of the best options for crossing continents in Istanbul

You ain’t seen nothing yet

The real fun starts next year – the Bosphorus Bridge is slated for a complete overhaul and the minister even says it could close altogether!

Living and working on the same continent would seem to be a good idea.