Change is coming
Forget about viewing the glass as half full or half empty. Our current administration is hell bent on keeping the infrastructure juggernaut moving. And making it move faster still. So far, the only projects of the previous administration that are up for review are those that failed in the bidding stage (LLDEx – Laguna Lake Dike Expressway PPP). Not for this administration is the tradition of freezing on-going projects or awarded projects by the previous administration in order to scrutinize for “midnight deals” and specks of suspected corruption. Neither will this administration go about violating provisions of previously signed and agreed contracts. Otherwise, the grant for emergency powers for the Palace should not just be for rapid bidding and implementation of traffic alleviating infrastructure and road right of way acquisition in Metro Manila but also for the rest of the country.
Needing immediate attention
DPWH's Mark Villar needs to resolve, ASAP, the design conflict of access roads and RROW going through Merville via Skyway's proposed Merville-Moonwalk-West Service Road interchange and the approved priority for the CAVITEx-C-5 link expressway. DPWH has to speed up approval of the corrected design of Plaza Dilao to PUP Skyway Stage 3 common alignment as it will link to the NLEx metro link connector which is all systems go. DPWH also has to speed up approval of the design correction of the A. Bonifacio ramps of Skyway Stage 3 which should be staggered to minimize bottlenecks while MMDA's Emerson Carlos has to step in and address the erratic pattern of daily heavy traffic at Skyway Stage 3 in critical A. Bonifacio as it affects Balintawak EDSA-NLEx. Perhaps Chairman Carlos is not aware (since so many BF-era experienced in-house MMDA experts are gone) that the current EDSA bollard blockade of Ortigas Center bound motorists from Connecticut and Annapolis was tried by Bayani Fernando in 2004 which resulted in the death of some local businesses and community grocery store. Altho it eased EDSA traffic on a very short stretch from Annapolis to PGA Porsche, the blockade caused near stationary traffic queues from EDSA to Gilmore along Ortigas and from Ortigas to P. Guevarra along Wilson even during off peak hours. BF wisely junked his pink fence blockade after 2 months of chaos. Chairman Carlos would be wise to revert to the previous set up that only blocked dangerous merging into EDSA.
Binalonan TPLEx, soon
The recent Petron economy run showed to the media the near completion of the Urdaneta to Binalonan section of the TPLEx. Soon to open, the Binalonan interchange should alleviate those long vehicle queues on the Manila North Road as Manila bound motorists trek home via the TPLEx Urdaneta entry on Sunday afternoons.
Wider, better, flood free NLEx
As promised, Metro Pacific Tollways is embarking on major pavement rehab of the SCTEx. Many North bound motorists are now getting used to traversing Mabalacat and Dau without stopping for a toll gate. Completion of the NLEx in accordance to its ultimate 1978 PNCC plan is coming soon as the Balem to Sta. Inez segment is now turning 2x2 dual carriageway while NLEx San Fernando-Candaba Viaduct-Sta. Rita is already being widened to 3x3 dual carriageway, accompanied with large mid-distance deck lay-bys astride the Viaduct. At Balintawak clover leaf, MNTC is constructing a huge flood water impounding cistern, in preparation for the in increased traffic of Skyway Stage 3, the gentrification of the Balintawak market and the former Lirag textile mills into an Ayala mixed-used township project.
Emergency powers for NLEx Segment 8.2
Closer to the Metro, the NLEx Segment 8.2 from Mindanao Avenue to Commonwealth C-5 could surely use emergency powers to clear squatters from the road right of way. MNTC plans several overpasses for Quirino Highway, Sauyo Road and Chestnut Road, while major interchanges will be built for Mindanao Avenue and Regalado Ave. Segment 8.2 will have a large toll plaza near Regalado interchange and a viaduct atop Luzon Avenue will be built to lead motorists to the end intersection leading to Tandang Sora and Commonwealth Ave. on one side, Congressional Ave. on the other.
Emergency powers for Harbor Link and NLEx connector
Besides the PNR right of way, road right of way issues bedevil the progress of the Harbor Link, essentially another NLEx spur proceeding from the new Karuhatan / Manila North Road interchange. Harbor Link leads to C-3 and R-1 both truck routes that lead to the North Harbor. Delayed by the previous administration, MNTC still has to wait for NEDA to initiate the Swiss Challenge before it can begin building the NLEx metro link Connector from the end of Harbor Link at C-3 up to the Skyway Stage 3 common alignment at PUP at Sta. Mesa.
Emergency powers for Skyway Stage 3
Although building Skyway Stage 3 from Buendia to Quirino Ave. and from SM Sta. Mesa to A. Bonifacio Balintawak is proceeding according to plan, the Quirino Ave. to Sta. Mesa segment of Stage 3 leading to PUP is hardly moving forward because of right of way issues. This is the crucial common alignment of Stage 3 and the NLEx metro link connector. Again, perhaps emergency powers are needed here.
Emergency powers for C-5-CAVITEx link and CALAx
As the NAIA Skyway nears completion, emergency powers may be needed for the acquisition of road right of way for the coming C-5 to CAVITEx tollway link to be made by Metro Pacific tollways. The route passes through Moonwalk, Merville, Nomad's club and the NAIA runway perimeter fence. Included in Metro Pacific's plans are the extension of CAVITEx to Kawit to connect with the CALAx expressway that leads to Mamplasan SLEx. These projects will surely need presidential intervention for faster right of way acquisition.
MCX: steep learning curve
Further South, SLEx is adding more tollgates at some interchanges and continuing the upgrade of Susanna Heights interchange so as to help improve traffic flow now that MCX traffic is fully integrated into SLEx's traffic flow. MCX, having just reached its first anniversary, has shown that the Ayala Infrastructure group is rather quick to respond to suggestions as MCX's road way and toll plaza mast flood lighting is now fully LED's. Ditto for the guard rails and road edge reflectors.
VP Leni's diversion road
With VP Leni Robredo regularly taking the bus to Naga, Camarines Sur on weekends, she cannot fail to appreciate how the partially completed DPWH diversion road from San Juan, Batangas to Candelaria, Quezon has diverted private motorist traffic away from the perennially congested old highway.
AutoSweep RFID takes over as E-PASS departs
With AutoSweep RFID stickers well integrated in the South Tollways ETC (electronic toll collection) system, we cannot help but lament the passing of the pioneering E-PASS system which allowed you to transfer the E-PASS Tag from one vehicle to another. If you recall, E-PASS lost to RFID autosweep because the E PASS tags cost more than the first 200,000 AutoSweep stickers which were all free. Excepting the internecine conflict between South Tollway partners, San Miguel Infrastructure and Citra Metro Manila tollways, E-PASS could have continued if Capstone only charged a refundable security deposit for the E PASS tag so as to draw equal to autosweep's costs. As CAVITEx ends the sale of the E-Tap card and allows AF Payment's PayMaya Beep Card, NLEx is testing readers for Easy Drive RFID deployment at NLEx-SCTEx. This paves the way for interoperability with San Miguel Infra's Auto Sweep RFID at NLEx-SCTEx and hopefully TPLEx. We, DSRC tag faithful, hope Easy Trip gets approved for SLEx as a sop for us who miss E-PASS.
Time to reroute Makati CBD traffic
We also hear that former DPWH Secy Babes Singson, cancelled the Buendia-Paseo underpass project of the DPWH because of the monster traffic jam it would have created. About time that MMDA and Ayala Makati CBD traffic planners consider the “bow tie” rotunda and one way traffic flow loop from Ayala Ave., Buendia Ave., Paseo de Roxas and Makati Ave. that we've been proposing in this column for years. By the same token, nothing is stopping the DPWH from breaking ground for the Congressional-North Avenue-EDSA interchange and the 2 interconnected stations of MRT-3 at SM City and MRT-7 at Trinoma.
The Lawton-Pasig River Bridge
With the critical Lawton Ave. Pasig River bridge (BGC-Capitol Commons bridge to shoppers) on hold because of right of way acquisition problems in the residential parts of Barrio Capitolyo in Pasig, emergency powers may be necessary. Since the residences in Barrio Capitolyo are legacy homes of many established families, just compensation will come at a high price. Time to design an alternative route for this, incorporating a viaduct over the stubborn residential gated communities.
CLEx, MRT-7, MMExpwy, C-6
With continuity as this administration's main driver for even greater change, we see no reason for delaying the Central Luzon Expressway from SCTEx La Paz to Cabanatuan, the North Luzon East Expressway, the MRT 7 including its 22km long access highway to Bocaue, the Balagtas-Plaridel-San Rafael bypass tollway, Citra's Metro Manila Expressway from Skyway Bicutan through C-6.
More LRT's, BRT's, toll bridges, terminals..
There's also the South, South West, ex-FTI and North bus terminals, the North South rail from Laguna to Matnog, Sorsogon, the Clark to NAIA Commuter Rail, the Ortigas LRT 4, LRT 2 extension to Masinag and prefab metal flyovers that can be built in 90 days for C-5-Katipunan junctions. Not to be left out are Metro Pac's 3rd Cebu-Mandaue toll bridge and Tommy Osmena's 10 overpass/underpass and the country's first BRT and RSA's (Ramon S. Ang of San Miguel Corporation) Caticlan to Boracay road bridge which instantly solves Boracay's garbage problems. Oh, let us not forget RSA's expanded NAIA that will spread to the reclaimed area on Manila Bay and probably even Sangley Point. And there's Davao City's still to be completed circumferential road.
Change is here
Indeed, the Duterte campaign promised that change is coming and that change has arrived. But ironically, the most prominent change is that no longer does a change of administration mean a halt to the continuity of the previous administration's on going infrastructure projects. Time to revive the Nautical Highway from GMA's time, now that RoRo's are part of everyday language, an indispensable leg of inter island travel life and a necessary means of economic growth. Even Mar Roxas, as travel blogger on his post election “thank you” inter island tour appreciated the benefits bequeathed by the RoRo's. And it's only the beginning.