You can almost tell the seasons and the time of the year with what the traffic authorities are busy with. Dry season? Watch for the ritual concrete blocking that DPWH does on EDSA and other main Metro thoroughfares. Wet season approaching? Read about the estero cleansing and drainage excavation going at the usual suspect flood prone areas. Holy Week and Summer? SumVac and motorist assistance banners and caravans are all over the street. Then comes Oplan Back-to-school, the rainy season, the typhoon/flying giant billboard season, the “ber” months and the world's longest Christmas season. And every three years, elections! After a two month hiatus, Metro motorists returning to the daily grind of EDSA and all the other clogged Metro thoroughfares can expect some of the same and some new, both nice and nasty.
The EDSA Motorsiklo lane with quaint red LED gantry signs and blue dotted lines for the center lane now gives the motorcycle rider a fair sense of entitlement as other motorists now respect the motorcycle rider's individual space. Being where they are supposed to be makes them easily visible and therefore, safe.
From sans culottes to avec culottes
The MMDA constables deserve their new navy blue cargo style culottes uniforms as they are cooler. They make a good match to the traditional pale blue polo jacs. Goodbye tight fitting dusty beige uniforms! Perhaps MMDA should dispense with the neck ties as the poor boys are subjected to extreme heat, humidity and dust.
Descending from the North, the NLEx has a new Balagtas interchange and some rescue patrol personnel now wear bright orange tops. Unfortunately, ever since the Balagtas interchange opened in March, thieves have already stolen the power cables of the street lamp three times justifying more severe security measures. MNTC, the NLEx franchisee continues to repave large sections of the truck battered pavement to keep it's wet traction and tire noise up to world expressway standards.
Victims of progress
DPWH's Araneta Avenue underpass project continues apace but at a great cost to business. Many of the best engine management computer chip restorers and modifiers – saviors of many an Ondoy flooded car computer, under chassis repair shops and surplus parts restorers were situated along that busy transport corridor, have closed shop, the price of progress. Coming from the environs of Eastern Manila, DPWH has been working on widening the eastern end of Marcos Highway to Masinag.
C-5's bridge too far
On C-5, Fort Bonifacio's BCDA funded north bound flyover link to C-5 is now alleviating the daily bottleneck of the Sampaguita interchange by Market Market. Apart from a few changes of U-turn slots, the next new thing on C-5 is the new 2x2 carriageway Commonwealth flyover connecting Katipunan to Luzon Ave. on the north side over Commonwealth Ave. Getting there is rather tricky as some uncleared half-demolished squatter dwellings diverts north traffic to a narrow but short stretch of Tandang Sora. Keeping eyes right to spot the flyover's concrete barriers that marks the on-ramp for the north bound carriageway, one has to be alert to make a sharp right turn to get on the flyover. The finished southbound carriageway remains closed as the ramp still needs to link with Katipunan. After crossing the flyover, one follows the overhead median signs to NLEx or EDSA, on Luzon Ave. then turn left into what is currently the southern end of Congressional Avenue. Then its easy sailing to follow the green overhead signs to Mindanao Ave. NLEx.
Another bridge too far
On EDSA itself, the DPWH is finishing the southbound U-turn slot by P. Tuason. This should greatly improve the flow of provincial buses when they turn around from their Cubao terminals. LRT has finally fenced their ground level station property on the EDSA median, discouraging jay walking. A pity though that EDSA's median fencing is incomplete even as the planted shrubbery and landscaping, despite trampling by jaywalkers, is already green and healthy. The EDSA Roosevelt-Congressional junction should be walled off as MMDA still has to post constables to discourage bikes, underbones and jaywalkers crossing through the gaps between the concrete jersey barriers. Over by Trinoma-SM City it pains to see that the LRT-1-MRT link will take far longer as the DOTC preferred expanding LRT-1 southward at the expense of closing the LRT-1-MRT loop as a priority PPP project. Why not make both a priority?
Coming in from the South
Coming in from the South, the SLEx from Toll Road 3 Sto. Tomas toll plaza to the Alabang Viaduct has a new owner. Dato Azmil Khalid, CEO of MTD, the Malaysian conglomerate that rebuilt and expanded the SLEx sold his concession to a new infrastructure partnership owned by Citra Metro-Manila Skyway and San Miguel Holdings.
Skyway no "fly" zone
The Skyway now has LIDAR enforced speed limits: 100km/h for cars and 80km/h for trucks and buses. Skyway operator SOMCO set their LIDAR apparatus to also catch vehicles driven at less than 59km/h. While DPWH is rebuilding the Sales overpass at Nichols, SOMCo cut tolls on the NAIA Expressway to provide regular commuters some traffic relief. Like MMDA's EDSA and the SLEx, the Skyway is also getting its own set of all weather visible LED video screen overhead gantries for real time traffic warnings.
Future C-5 link
For the near future, MNTC has begun building the P6.1 billion 7.85-kilometer NLEx segment 8.2 C-5 Link connecting the NLEX main to C-5 through Mindanao Avenue, estimated to open to traffic in June 2016. It will follow an eastward route along Republic Avenue, turn to Luzon Avenue and end at Congressional Avenue Extension. It will have two interchanges in Mindanao and Regalado Avenues, and a roundabout connection at Congressional Avenue where it will connect to the Commonwealth Avenue Flyover. There will also be three local crossings at Quirino, Sauyo and Chestnut Avenues.
Future Harbor link
The P10 billion 8-km NLEx Harbor Link Project is currently in the pre-construction stage. It will start construction by the fourth quarter of the year with an extension of the NLEx main to the Manila North Road (MacArthur Highway) in Valenzuela City called segment 9, and eventually to segment 10, the C-3 Road, which leads to the port areas in Manila. Portion of the project will be constructed as an elevated highway over the existing rail right of way of Philippine National Railways, which comprises part of the proposed NLEx-SLEx connector. The NLEx-SLEx connector will accommodate the proposed NAIA-Clark rail link which is to be built beside the 2x2 elevated toll expressway. That railway will face the design challenge of how to cross into NAIA as building a bridge entails crossing over the Skyway, putting the railway in the path of planes taking off and landing.
Skyway Stage 3
Meantime, if all goes to plan, the Buendia to Balintawak Skyway Stage 3 should be pile boring on the median of its Quirino Ave. to G. Araneta Ave. alignment by Christmas. We hope Skyway Stage 3 diverts its northern terminus west to the NLEx Harbor Link at 5th Avenue rather than terminate, at eternally congested A. Bonifacio. A. Bonifacio congestion wasn't as bad when the Ramos administration approved the Skyway project 12 years ago.
Down South, Ayala should be making progress building the Daang Hari expressway which will have its own SLEx interchange just north of Susana Heights. The 4.0 km expressway ends in a giant roundabout providing access to all the commuters of the Villar and Ayala bedroom communities that today endure the traffic of the Alabang-Zapote road.
A welcome proposal from the MMDA is the Skybridge. It will be a steel-and-concrete snake stretching for 6.75 kilometers from E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City to J. P. Rizal Street in Makati City, passing through parts of Manila, Mandaluyong and following a path over the San Juan River. The 3x3 elevated toll expressway will stand on towering A-shaped pylons. The waterways utilized on its paths all have river banks and river beds of solid adobe for stable foundation. Constructing the Skybridge will also eliminate the squatter and garbage eyesore that afflicts esteros. Estimated to take 24 months to build and P 10 billion to finance, the Skybridge should make a fine complement to Skyway Stage 3 and the NLEx-SLEx Connector.
Both Tokyo and Bangkok have constructed expressways and elevated railways on rivers and waterways. Noynoy Aquino recently proposed an expressway alternative to Kennon Road to drive Baguio tourism after his first drive there as President. In a column entitled "To Baguio in All Weater", published March 02, 2011, we proposed building the Kennon expressway on the Bued river itself so as to keep the road as far as possible from the landslide prone slopes. Building the foundation of the A pylons into the river banks would work here too.
The Kaiser was first
It would not be the first time highways or tramways, supported on "A" pylons, follow waterways. The 13.3km Wuppertal Schwebebahn suspension railway in Germany partly follows the Wupper river at a height of 12m. It was built during the Kaiser's reign in 1901and still moves 25 million passengers a year. The Schwebebahn uses the A pylons to suspend the railway and is engineering proof of the stability of A-pylons.
Solutions to our traffic mess don't need us to re-invent the wheel. The NEDA, DPWH and the MMDA have the will but its the other agencies that keep flip-flopping, keeping everyone mired in the muddle. Indeed there is lots to think off while waiting for traffic to move, and with an election year coming, promises made 3 years ago should show results. After all, that's the only foundation politicians can build on to make even more promises for the future.