THE FIRST 18-kilometer section of the 30-kilometer Central Luzon Link Expressway project will be opened to motorists Thursday, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said.

Bukas na ang opening kaya nagpa-final inspection na ako dito. Ang bubuksan bukas ay 18 kilometers (The opening will be tomorrow, so I am conducting a final inspection. The 18-kilometer section will be opened),” Public Works Secretary Mark A. Villar said in an announcement via social media Wednesday.

The section runs from the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx)/Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) connection in Tarlac City to the intersection of Aliaga-Guimba Road in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija, Mr. Villar said.

The expressway will be “toll-free,” he said.

“DPWH is committed to complete the entire 30-kilometer expressway project within the term of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, with the 10.3-kilometer Cabanatuan Section under Contract Package 4 already at 88.7% while the Zaragoza Interchange Section under Contract Package 5 is at 26.9% and expected to make significant progress as site possessions are secured for the project’s right-of-way requirements,” the department said in a statement.

“Once fully operational, the P11.811-billion expressway is expected to shorten the usual travel time of 70 minutes between Tarlac City and Cabanatuan City to just 20 minutes,” it added.

The project is expected to become an east-west link for the expressway network of Central Luzon “to ensure continuous seamless traffic flow” from Metro Manila and vice versa passing through North Luzon Expressway, SCTEx, and TPLEx. — Arjay L. Balinbin