In a little over a year, drivers coming from the port area headed to NLEX can expect travel times of just 10-15 minutes cruising at speeds of 80 km/h. This was the promise made by Manila North Tollways Corporation officials in their press conference last July 21.
The press conference and site tour was held to show the progress of the construction of 5.76-km four to six-lane Segment 10 of the Luzon Expressway Harbor Link project. The project is already 25 percent complete and expects to promptly meet its target completion date of December 1, 2016.
Construction of Segment 10 started in May 22, 2014 with a project cost of P10.5-billion. The contractor is Leighton and the project expects to provide as many as 10,000 jobs at its peak construction phase.
The NLEX Harbor Link project is just a small part of its greater Manila North Expressway public-private partnership (PPP) plan that encompasses maintenance and expansion of its existing NLEX tollway (Phase 1), the ongoing construction of the 22-km link from C5 – C3 in Quezon City and Caloocan City (Phase 2), and the expansions of its Subic arm (Phase 3). When all projects are complete, vehicles can expect smooth and rapid travel between all points.
The NLEX Harbor Link project plans to bring the NLEX closer to the SLEX through elevated roadways above parts of the Philippine National Railway (PNR) line. MNTC selected this method in order to impact city traffic and surrounding residents as little as possible. It also eases the acquisition of Right of Way (ROW) as most of the proposed route already has existing ROW. MNTC has also built a casting yard onsite to build girders closer to the highway and reduce travel times.
The roadways are hoped to lure large cargo trucks away from city streets and decongest them, as well as providing trucks and passenger cars an easier means to bypass Manila traffic. Besides quicker travel times, NLEX officials also offered that the Harbor Link will be free of truck ban hours, allowing the continuous flow of goods and the decongestion of the port. Passenger cars will also benefit from the new expressways, built with the latest construction techniques and implementing the latest safety standards and guardrails. All this is hoped to reduce vehicle accidents, fuel and maintenance costs, as well as decongest Metro Manila traffic.
A toll fee for using the expressway is already being reviewed by the Toll Regulatory Board. It will implement an open-system toll rate, similar to that employed by the first few kilometers of the NLEX where a fixed fee is paid regardless of entry or exit point. It will also enforce strict anti-overloading enforcement with an axle load limit of 13.5 tons.
The Mindanao Ave. exit will serve as the cloverleaf that links Commonwealth Avenue directly to NLEX. The Harbor Link will serve as the other exit option, bringing trucks closer to the Manila North Harbor, via its R10 exit road or passenger cars closer to SLEX via C3. These crucial exits are both part of Segment 10.
Aside from the elevated roadway, the entire Harbor Link also leaves provisional space for the PNR railway, and a second proposed North South Commuter Railway just above it. As such, parts of the Harbor Link stand as high as 20 meters.
In spite of the careful planning, MNTC still expects to encounter delays from securing ROWs from PNR, DPWH and DOTC. ROWs from some portions have been running behind schedule. “There will be some cost implications because of the change in schedule, change in the methodology, change in the scheme of launching the girders," said MNTC senior vice president Raul Ignacio.
Nonetheless, they remain confident in meeting the target date. They expect to receive clearance for the remaining ROWs and documentation within the month.