‘Build, Build, Build’ marches forward despite the pandemic

By Adrian Paul B. Conoza, Special Features Writer

AMID THE coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic that disrupted economic activity and even halted road constructions temporarily, new roads were completed last year and more are set to be open as the current administration’s Build, Build, Build (BBB) program pushes through.

One of the most remarkable completed roads is the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3, which was officially inaugurated last Jan. 14. The 17.93-kilometer (km) elevated expressway extends from Gil Puyat Ave. (the former Buendia Ave.) in Makati to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) in Balintawak, Quezon City.

The opening of Skyway Stage 3, which bypasses the often-congested EDSA, cuts travel time between Gil Puyat and Balintawak from two hours to 15 to 20 minutes.

Moreover, as constructor San Miguel Corp. noted in a statement, through this expressway, travel from Magallanes to Balintawak will only take about 15 minutes; Balintawak to Ninoy Aquino International Airport also 15 minutes; and Valenzuela to Makati 10 minutes.

Skyway Stage 3 has five sections: Gil Puyat Ave., Makati-Quirino Ave.-Nagtahan; Nagtahan-Aurora Blvd./Ramon Magsaysay Ave.; Ramon Magsaysay-Quezon Ave.; Quezon Ave.-Balintawak, Quezon Ave.; and Balintawak, Quezon City-NLEX Footbridge.

Last July 15, the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) was completed and can now be fully utilized from Tarlac City and Rosario, La Union. The 89-km expressway cuts the travel from 3.5 hours to one hour, benefitting 20,000 travelers per day. This is being followed up by a proposal extending TPLEX by an additional 59 km up to San Juan, La Union.

In addition, at the NLEX Harbor Link, Segment 10, a 5.58-km elevated expressway connecting MacArthur Highway and C-3, and the 2.6-km C-3-R10 Section (Exit Ramp) were opened. This reduces travel time from NLEX to Radial Road 10, Navotas City (and vice versa) from one hour to 10 minutes.

Along with these finished roads, there are more projects along the road network that have been ramped up. Many of these are expected to be completed within this year.

Among the main roads in progress is the 8-km NLEX-SLEX Connector, which will connect the end of NLEX Harbor Link, Segment 10 in C3 Road, Caloocan City to Skyway Stage 3 through PUP Sta. Mesa.

As said by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in a statement last January, a portion of the connector road, which spans 5 km from the Caloocan Interchange to España, Manila, is aimed to be open by yearend.

Meanwhile, the Arterial (Plaridel) Bypass Road, traversing from Batangas to Bulacan, is being widened from two lanes to four. Targeted to be finished by April, this widening is expected to address traffic diverted from Maharlika Highway and to cut travel between Burol, Batangas to Maasim, San Rafael in Bulacan to 24 minutes from 69 minutes.

Also in progress is the 30-km, four-lane Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEX), traversing Tarlac City and Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. CLLEX aims to reduce travel time within the area from 70 minutes to 20 minutes. The DPWH announced last February that the expressway will be open to the motoring public up to Aliaga, Nueva Ecija by May 15.

In the Southeast Metro Manila Expressway, C-6 (Phase I) project, which targets to reduce travel time from Bicutan, Taguig to Batasan, Quezon City from 110 minutes to 26 minutes, advanced construction activities for the workable area along Skyway/FTI-C-5/Diego Silang Section are ongoing.

The Alabang-Sucat Skyway Connection and Ramp Extension, which intends to provide direct access to and from the elevated Skyway to SLEX through the Alabang Viaduct, is 61% complete. The DPWH announced that the northbound portion of the extension will open by the second quarter of 2021.

Within the 45-km Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAX), which intends to reduce travel time between CAVITEX and SLEX from 90 minutes to 45 minutes, the 7.2-km segment that runs between Santa Rosa-Tagaytay Road Interchange and the Silang East Interchange may open by the third quarter, according to constructor MPCALA Holdings, Inc.

At the 66.74-km South Luzon Expressway-Toll Road 4, which intends to reduce travel time from Sto. Tomas, Batangas to Lucena City, Quezon from four hours to an hour, construction of the Tiaong Interchange in Quezon is ongoing.

Further south, the Quezon-Bicol Expressway is already considered in the Supplemental Toll Operations Agreement of the Toll Regulatory Board as part of SLEX-TR5.

The Camarines Sur Expressway, which is planned to reduce travel between San Fernando and Pili towns to 11 minutes, is already ongoing implementation.

Aside from these projects in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao regions are not left out. The DPWH allots P1.23 billion for preliminary studies required to implement several big-ticket projects. These include 19 projects in Visayas, among them the Capiz-Aklan Coastal Road and Baybay-MacArthur Road, to name a few.

Mindanao, meanwhile, will receive funding for 29 projects, including Putik-Campo Island Diversion Road in Zamboanga City and Poblacion Sta. Maria-Malungon Road, connecting Davao del Sur to Sarangani.