Traffic conditions at three major toll roads north and south of Metro Manila could turn from bad to worse if no major road expansion efforts were to be completed by 2018.
Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) chair Edmundo Reyes Jr. said signs of traffic buildup have started to emerge at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), South Luzon Expressway (SLEx), and Cavite-Manila Expressway (Cavitex), prompting the need for new lanes and toll booths, among others.
“If we don’t do anything, by 2018, certain stretches of NLEx and SLEx will be like Edsa (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue),” Reyes said on Thursday.
He said the TRB has ordered the operators of NLEx, SCTEx, and Cavitex to submit their proposed expansion plans to the agency this year.
“They still have room to expand, but if they just widen the roads, there will be bottlenecks at the tollgates,” he said.
While average traffic at the three toll roads are still within acceptable levels, congestion has been building up during peak hours, he said.
Reyes attributed the worsening traffic situation to rapid urbanization and the country’s growing economy, which has fueled higher car sales.
The Chamber of Auto Manufacturers in the Philippines Inc. (Campi) this month reported that car sales last January and February rose by 42 percent year-on-year.
“It’s very subjective, volume changes with time of day,” Reyes said, describing the ebb and flow of traffic on the major toll roads. “We look at peak and rush hours, as well as averages. There is an international standard and a Department of Public Works and Highways standard [that have to be followed].”
The agency predicted that traffic congestion could reach critical mass by 2018 given the buildup of traffic volume over the past years.
“We assume an average 2-percent traffic volume increase every year,” Reyes said.
He said concessionaires would be allowed to recover the cost of the expansion projects through toll collections.
There are currently six separate applications for fee adjustments at privately run toll roads pending with the TRB. If all were to be approved, fees for motorists at the NLEx, SLEx, Cavitex, the Metro Manila Skyway, the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) and the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (Star) toll would go up.
The TRB is currently reviewing the applications, some of which have been pending for more than a year, Reyes said. He assured motorists that no increase in toll would be implemented before the Holy Week.