How 132 kilometers of road, 11 bridges will keep EDSA moving

    OPENING up the country’s most congested road network is going to happen as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is focused on completing the EDSA Decongestion Masterplan by the end of 2022.

    In January this year, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, speaking to Palace reporters was confident in completing the master plan designed to restore EDSA to its original “carrying capacity” of 280,000 from the current 400,000. The move will increase traffic speed by half, and cut travel time significantly.

    The 2020 EDSA Decongestion Masterplan is comprised of a network of infrastructure projects. A total 132 kilometers of carriageways, with 11 bridges crossing mostly the Pasig River and its tributaries, all worth a total P222.6 billion.

    The master plan will cut down travel time from the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) to as short as 30 minutes and restore EDSA to its original carrying capacity of 280,000 cars.

    Building in a pandemic

    The accomplishment of DPWH has proved that it was possible to build during the pandemic following construction guidelines under the new normal.

    It has opened two key infrastructure projects under the Luzon Spine Expressway — the NLEX Harbor Link Project which reduced travel time from Quezon City to Manila from two hours to only about 20 minutes and the Tarlac – Pangasinan – La Union Expressway, which shortened travel time from Manila to Baguio to only 3 hours.

    Delivery of Skyway Stage 3, BGC-Ortigas Link Bridge, Pantaleon Estrella Bridge and Binondo Intramuros bridge is also on track.

    With the easing of restrictions on the construction sector, DPWH is ramping up the implementation of public infrastructure projects to catch-up with the delayed projects, with construction teams complying with minimum safety standards.

    Now that the main bridge of the BGC Ortigas Link bridge is connected, travel time between BGC and Ortigas’ Central Business District will go down to 11 minutes from an average 56 minutes.

    The importance of this link is also paramount to the finishing of the 506-meter Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, because faster uptake of traffic into Ortigas may mean more traffic flowing into Makati via the Rockwell route.

    The BGC road includes 362-meter rehabilitation and widening of Brixton (corner Reliance Street) to Fairlane Street and building of a four-lane, half-kilometer of road towards the busy Lawton Avenue in BGC into the Global City viaduct structure.

    The Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, has been closed to vehicular traffic since 2019 causing more congestion in the area as it was a viable alternate route used by over 25,000 cars a day.

    What could be the most ambitious of these projects is the beautiful Binondo-Intramuros Bridge, under a Chinese financing facility and will link Intramuros and Binondo bypassing the congested Jones Bridge avoiding the traffic at the entrance of Chinatown. The 734-meter bridge is a four-lane carriageway with a three-meter sidewalk and bike lane. When completed it will access important roads inside the Binondo district.

    When asked if the decongestion project, starting with the completion of these bridges will happen as planned, Secretarty Villar said President Rodrigo Duterte wants to fulfill a vow to decongest Edsa under his watch.

    “In fact, for the past few years, the President has personally been active in the right-of-way of these flagship projects and nag-assign kami ng mga team para tutukan itong EDSA decongestion project. So we are confident that by the end of the term of the President, EDSA will be back to its original capacity,” he added also saying that his department assigned teams to focus on this project.

    On its way to completion

    Thus, despite the delay the grand EDSA Decongestion Masterplan is still on track its way to completion by 2022.

    “When the EDSA Decongestion Program is completed, we will be able to free up major thoroughfares by at least 120,000 vehicles. By 2022, every city in Metro Manila will be reachable within a 20- to 30-minute time frame,” the Secretary said in a press statement.

    Already, the 18.83-kilometer Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 project is complete and will be open to the public by December. San Miguel Chairman Ramon Ang said that the elevated expressway starting from Buendia, Makati City to NLEX in Balintawak, Quezon City was still completed on time thanks to the tireless effort of his team in coordination with the DPWH. It will decongest EDSA and other major Metro Manila thoroughfares by as much as 55,000 vehicles daily.

    The projects in the pipeline

    Among the other projects at the forefront of the masterplan are:

    1. The eight-kilometer, four-lane NLEX-SLEX Connector Road of the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC). Another elevated expressway that links to the Skyway Stage 3, it will extend the NLEX all the way to PUP Sta. Mesa in Manila from Segment 10 in C3 Road, Caloocan City. The road is 11 percent complete and is set to be finished by March 2022. When fully utilized it will clear the road for 35,000 motorists by reducing travel time from SLEX to NLEX from two hours to 20 minutes.
    2. The Southeast Metro Manila Expressway, which is a 32.66-km toll road from Skyway/FTI in Taguig City to Batasan Complex in Quezon City is targeted for utilization also by 2022. Costing P45.29 billion the new expressway will cut travel time from Bicutan to Batasan by one hour and 25 minutes for 88,000 motorists per day. The first section is currently 12 percent complete, according to the DPWH.
    3. At nearly 75 percent complete is the Mindanao Avenue Extension (Segment 2C). The 3.2-km, four-lane divided highway at the intersection of NLEX to Gen. Luis Avenue that connects Valenzuela to North Caloocan and Novaliches. When completed it will cut travel time between Quirino Highway and General Luis Road from one hour and 30 minutes to just 20 minutes.
    4. Also set for completion by 2022 is MPTC’s 7.70-km, six-lane C5 South Link Expressway. Worth P12.65 billion the road traverses R-1 expressway to SLEX/C5 chipping off 30 minutes from the current 40 minutes travel time. Part of this project is the Merville to C5/SLEX section, known as Segment 3A-1, which was opened to traffic in July 2019. Two other segments, Segments 2, which completes the southbound bend and 3A2 going North broke ground just this July.
    5. Those coming from the East going to the South will benefit greatly from the Laguna Lake Highway. Built as part of what is the C6 circumferential road, the 6.94-km LLH is already substantially completed. The four-lane divided highway already cuts down travel time from Taytay, Rizal to Bicutan in Taguig from one hour to only 30 minutes. Once fully operational it will be further cut down to about 20 minutes.
    6. Not directly related to decongestion but will bring in a greater sense of safety and security is P7.93 billion Metro Manila Priority Bridges Seismic Improvement Project. Set for replacement of outer bridges and substructures, as well as rehabilitation and re-engineer are the Guadalupe bridge and the vertical geometry improvement of the Lambingan bridge.
    7. Other projects like the Southbound portion of the Alabang-Sucat Skyway Connection and Ramp Extension and the Fort Bonifacio-Nichols Field Road project that widens the 3.3-km Nichols Field Road from four lanes to six lanes are adjacent to EDSA but will contribute to decongestion because these will clear traffic faster and reduce travel time in and out of the Bonifacio Global City area. Other infrastructure projects have a similar objective–the NAIA Expressway Phase 2, and the widening of Radial Road 10 and Samar Street.

     A bike-friendly EDSA

    Decongestion does not stop at just building more roads. The highways department also supports bike lanes as an active and healthy form of transportation. These will, according to Department Order No. 88 series of 2020, be incorporated in all the related future projects of the department.

    By making EDSA truly bike friendly, more drivers will be encouraged to leave their cars home. But to do this means thinking of bikers safety through road sharing. This is what DO No. 88 is all about–standardizing a design of bike lines, taking into consideration the many nuances of the national highway.

    Through the order, the construction of all new national roads and bridges or future expansion of projects shall incorporate a bicycle facility contingent on the prevailing road and traffic conditions but will have no less than 2.44 meters of bicycle path width.

    “With bike-friendly infrastructure, we aim to promote road safety to all and encourage the public to consider biking as a safe mode of transportation beneficial to their physical health, the environment through reduced greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution, to traffic, and to public roads that render less wear and tear,” Sec. Villar concluded.