AS MANY as seven companies have expressed interest in the bidding for a P14-billion contract to build the second section of the North Luzon Expressway-South Luzon Expressway (NLEx-SLEx) connector road.

NLEX Corp. targets to bid out the contract in two months and identify the contractor by May so a notice to proceed could be issued, Luigi L. Bautista, president and general manager of NLEX Corp., told reporters on Friday.

The eight-kilometer toll road linking the tail of NLEx Harbor Link Segment 10 at C3 Road, Caloocan City to Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta. Mesa, Manila aims to provide an alternate route for trucks coming from the port area.

NLEX targets to open the expressway by December next ear. Once operational, it is expected to cut travel time from NLEx to SLEx to 20 minutes from the usual two hours. It will have a daily capacity of 35,000 motorists.

From Sta. Mesa, vehicles passing through the expressway may connect to the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 through an elevated road.

Mr. Bautista said the first section covers about four kilometers — from Caloocan to España Avenue in Manila — of the entire eight-kilometer project.

Section 2 is from España all the way to PUP Sta. Mesa, he added. The project will cost P13 billion to P14 billion, he said.

NLEX awarded the contract for the construction of the first section to D.M. Consunji, Inc. last year.

“The notice to proceed was awarded last month and as we speak today, we are already mobilizing,” Mr. Bautista said.

“Full-blast construction will start next month and they will bring heavy and big equipment to the side,” he said, adding that the project was expected to be completed next year.

NLEX is part of the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., the tollway 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. — Arjay L. Balinbin