Text: Tito F. Hermoso / Photos: | posted November 08, 2011 18:41
The Field of Dreams
Yes, yes, we still have to waste millions of hours battling the humungous traffic jams that lie in store for the world's longest Christmas pre-season this year. But then, the rush to make up for lost time and opportunity to enhance infrastructure is a fait accompli. Thus we want to look forward to next year, when the government, hopefully chastised for failing to follow on the growth in infrastructure of the previous regime, gets its promised act together. Besides, retirement in a monastic community which emphasizes silence doesn't mean we already earned the gift of prophecy much less the gift of tongues.
With the approach of Christmas 2012, C-5 resumes its congested state even as the Fort Bonifacio North flyover is fully commissioned. The flow on this critical area of C-5 really all depends on how the unruly Taguig jeepneys can be disciplined on the Sampaguita interchange by Market market and how Pasig bound traffic flow on the underbelly of the Pasig-C-5 flyover improves. Not likely.
Closer to the city's heart, we are not optimistic that despite the heroic efforts of the well intentioned government authorities, the daily back log of bus terminal traffic in Cubao remains. It's not easy telling all those bus companies to disinvest to relocate their hard earned bus terminals thereafter encouraging them to build in Cubao 35 years ago. Moreover, transferring the bus terminals to the Trinoma-SM City axis on EDSA will have dire consequences for traffic in the already congested EDSA-zone bordering Roosevelt, Congressional, West Ave., North Ave. and Mindanao Ave.
Perhaps its time to restart the stalled Balagtas interchange project in the vicinity of the NLEx Bocaue Petron and Shell mega stations. Originally, the project was supposed to relieve Sta. Maria, Bustos and Bocaue traffic while establishing a giant produce market in the area, akin to a northern counterpart of the FTI [Food Terminal Inc.] "bagsakan" in Bicutan. This would be opportune to also build a giant intermodal transportation terminal where city buses and provincial buses can exchange passengers here instead of Cubao. The area would also be close to the North Rail project which should provide express rail access not only to Metro Manila but also the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) and Clark in the north.
By Christmas 2012, we hope travelers and freight traffic to the Cagayan Valley Road have finally forgotten about the traffic hell that festered the Sta. Rita interchange at the NLEx- Daang Maharlika, thanks to the new Plaridel By-pass-NLEx interchange. It remains to be seen though if the local authorities can handle the increased traffic at the Plaridel-Bustos bound junction north-east of the new exit.
The NLEx package 9 should also be on stream by then, barring snags in DPWH's acquisition of right of way. This NLEx branch starts from the western end of the NLEx-Mindanao Ave. clover leaf and heads out to Karuhatan, Valenzuela City, relieving the heavy congestion on Maysan road and Malinta interchange. Coupled with the DPWH's completion of the Luzon Ave. overpass on Commonwealth, one can already trace C-5 from MacArthur/Manila North Road in Valenzuela all the way east to Mindanao Ave., Tandang Sora, Congressional Ave., Luzon Ave. and into the UP-Manila Water area of C-5.
As the administration keeps flip flopping with PPP guidelines, Metro Tollways' crtical NLEx-SLEx connector will take a long time to get off the ground. But if the authorities review BOT projects of several past administrations, they will see that Citra Metro Manila Tollway's 14km Skyway Stage 3 from Buendia to Balintawak is practically an approved project and can get off the ground anytime the finance/investment package is assembled.
If this happens, Christmas 2012 will usher in pile boring along Qurino Ave., G. Araneta Ave. and A. Bonifacio in time for the Yuletide rush.
Down south, Citra Metro Manila Tollways should be already preparing for the C-6 Skyway, starting with a complicated interchange of sweeping flyovers that will link Skyway at-grade, Skyway elevated Stage 01 to NAIA 3, C-5, C-5 extension and C-6. This "spaghetti" junction will rival Birmingham's 1960's original, without the urban blight as it will incorporate intermodal bus terminals and rail connections housed in the FTI area. Skyway's C-6 stage 01 will reach all the way to Marcos highway, providing Antipolo and Ateneo bound traffic from Alabang a fast and lake shore scenic route. This bus terminal will greatly decongest southern provincial bus routes, leaving the authorities to deal with traditionally congested bus traffic in Baclaran-Roxas Boulevard.
Skyway C-6 Stage 02 will take a few more years and will pass through Montalban, Rizal and connect to NLEx between Meycauayan and Marilao.
Further up north, the first stages the integration of Metro Tollways' of SFEx, NLEx and SCTEx should be delivering its benefits. No longer will there be long queues of paying vehicles at the Angeles NLEx and the Mabalacat SCTEx toll barriers as they will be decommissioned. Full length journey toll payments will now be handled in Tarlac in the North and Tipo in the Southwest.
New entry/exit toll plazas will rise in Dau and Santa Inez NLEx plus Mabalacat SCTEx. We hope DPWH cooperates with the Metro Tollway planners in improving the road geometry of the MacArthur/Manila North Road interchanges at Mabalacat and Dolores SCTEx as the paths of turning/merging traffic are quite confusing to first time users. Toll Management Corporation's speed monitoring patrol teams will surely have the SD card memories of their digital camera LIDARs brimming when Christmas vacation season comes.
To the intrepid, one may snatch a few glimpses of PIDCo.'s 2-lane single carriageway TPLEx that is already being built. Roadworks will have reached Gerona but the right of way link to SCTEx will need some creative persuasion to get things to happen.
Hopefully, DPWH Cordilleras has arrested the damage done by the untimely bad weather to their re-blocking of Marcos Highway this year. As for the Cavite end of the CAVITEx, lets hope all those access roads to the new toll plaza are finally done as per design.
I'm afraid fuel will remain dear and so with tolls but at least we have world class expressways to drive on. With more roads to the "out-of-town" next Christmas season, car spotters will be happy to see the latest crop of "it" cars that 2012 hopefully brings: The new Honda Civic and CR-V. The new Ford Focus. A new Mazda 3. The new Chevrolet Colorado pick up, along with the Orlando, the long awaited 7-seater Opel Zafira replacement. The new Ford Ranger. The new D-MAX with hopefully new engines, the first new Isuzu model in a long long time. A new BMW 3-series. The new Toyota Yaris. Suzuki's Kisashi. A new Subaru Impreza. Perhaps, the new Kia Optima? A sprinkling of Lamborghinis too? And if Volkswagen gets its act together, perhaps the latest Caravelle? Something, anything new from Nissan?
And so we continue to dream. More trains for the MRT. The MRT-LRT-1 link. More bridges across the Pasig River, particularly at the end of Merit Road of Fort Bonifacio. Mandatory LTO Motor Vehicle Inspection, whose infrastructure has been in place all these years. 8-character vehicle registration plates so LTO need not re-issue alpha prefixes from the 80s and 90s. And if our dreams don't happen, we still won't dare call it prophecy.