NLEX Corp. is targeting to begin next month the construction of the toll road that will link North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) to South Luzon Expressway (SLEx).

Luigi L. Bautista, president of NLEX, told reporters last week the company may soon begin groundwork on the P23.3-billion NLEx-SLEx Connector Road as it is close to getting significant amount of right of way for the expressway.

“Next month na. ’Yan ang pangako sa atin ng DPWH [We can start construction next month. That’s what the Department of Public Works and Highways promised us],” he said. “We need a sufficient length of the road to be turned over to us so that we can start construction.”

Currently, the DPWH has turned over about half of the right of way of the affected area for the NLEx-SLEx Connector Road. Mr. Bautista said ideally, 70% of the right of way is awarded to the company before it may start construction.

NLEX has completed preliminary works on the project after a ground-breaking ceremony was held last February. Preliminary works included the ground survey, finalization of design, and clearing of roads through tree cutting and relocation of informal settlers.

The 8-kilometer toll road linking the tail of NLEx Harbor Link Segment 10 in C3 Road, Caloocan City to PUP Sta. Mesa, Manila aims to provide an alternate route for trucks coming from the port area. From Sta. Mesa, vehicles traversing the expressway may connect to the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 through an elevated road.

The target is to open the expressway by December 2021. Once operational, it is expected to reduce travel time from NLEx to SLEx to 20 minutes from the usual two hours. It will have a capacity of 35,000 motorists daily.

NLEX is part of the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., the tollways unit of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC).

MPIC is one of three key Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Denise A. Valdez