THE planned closure of a portion of Roxas Boulevard is targeted for the middle of this month to allow for the repair of a damaged drainage structure, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said on Wednesday.

The repairs might start in “one or two weeks,” MMDA Chairman Benjamin D. Abalos, Jr. said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay virtual forum, referring to the planned closure of the thoroughfare, a major route used by trucks to access the Port of Manila.

Kasi ang problema baka mag-collapse ‘yung kalye eh (The problem is that the street might collapse),” he noted. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is repairing the damaged box culvert that was constructed in the 1970s.

Nag-collapse ito dahil ginawa ito 1970 pa (The culvert collapsed because it was constructed in the 1970s), so it’s a 50-year-old culvert.”

Mr. Abalos said in December that the agency had yet to determine whether a portion of the southbound direction of Roxas Boulevard fronting HK Sun Plaza would be totally or partially closed to vehicular traffic.

“The structural integrity is at stake. Hence, we are appealing for the public’s understanding of the inconvenience the road closure would cause. This is temporary. The construction is only for three months,” he said in a statement.

Mr. Abalos and officials from the Department of Transportation, DPWH, Philippine Ports Authority, and International Container Terminal Services, Inc. also met last month to discuss solutions for trucks and trailers which will be affected by the closure.

“One of the possible solutions that we are eyeing is for the container vans to be carried on barges for transport from MICT (Manila International Container Terminal) to the Cavite Gateway Terminal in Tanza, Cavite,” Mr. Abalos said.

The move is expected to reduce the number of trailer trucks using the road by 25%.

“’Yung mga trailer trucks doon (Cavite) na lang susundo. ’Yung byaheng Cavite, ang tantya namin that’s only about 25% or 20%, pero at least makokonti, mababawasan (The pickup point for containers will be in Cavite. We expect the reduction in truck traffic to be only 20-25%, but at least there will be a reduction,” Mr. Abalos said during the forum Wednesday.

The Confederation of Truckers Associations of the Philippines has said that instead of closure, the MMDA and the DPWH should allow the use of some of the northbound lanes.

“Our suggestion is for two out of the four northbound lanes to be used as southbound lanes, so there would be no congestion going to South Superhighway,” the truckers’ group President Maria B. Zapata said in a phone interview last month.

She said the planned road closure is worrisome because many operators who use the road could be affected.

To such proposals, Mr. Abalos replied: “Sabi ko pwede bang kalahati ng kalye? Sabi nila (DPWH), ‘Chairman baka habang sinisemento mag-crack, because of the pounding at ma-compromise ang (structural) integrity… (When we explored the possibility of using half the road, the DPWH replied that the newly-paved road work will crack, compromising the structural integrity of the project) For the meantime, we should brace ourselves for secondary or tertiary roads.”

DPWH South Manila district engineer Mikunug D. Macud said previously that the department is hoping to start work by the first week of January.

Total closure at that time would mean the completion of rehabilitation works by the first week of March, he said in a phone interview last month. — Arjay L. Balinbin