43 eyes on the Skyway
DID you know that 43 eyes are watching you when you drive on the Skyway, whether on the elevated or the ground-level segment, from Makati to Alabang and vice-versa?
Those eyes are not 21 pairs of human eyes plus one, but the eyes of state-of-the-art Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras that the Skyway O&M Corporation (Somco) has installed at strategic points of the tollway with the opening of the new Skyway Stage 2. Somco, the manager and operator of Skyway 1 and 2, claims that the cameras, remotely controlled from the Central Command Center, were installed to further raise the safety level of motoring patrons. And that includes monitoring and apprehending motorists who exceed the speed limit, so speed freaks, better start moderating your over-enthusiastic driving behavior.
The installation of 43 CCTV cameras is one reason why Somco asked the Toll Regulatory Board for higher toll rates and got the TRB’s approval. Those driving Class 1 vehicles at ground level all the way from Makati to Alabang now have to pay P106 compared with only P65 before the new rates and P147 on the elevated level instead of only P120. The TRB-approved P147 rate is still lower than the P169 rate that SOMC0 originally proposed.
The construction of Skyway Stage 2, the 6.88-kilometer extension of the elevated expressway from Bicutan to Alabang began in 2009 and was completed ahead of target schedule, in less than two years. Citra Metro Manila Tollway Corp. (CMMTC), the investor that funded the design and construction of the South Metro Manila Skyway, spent P9.6 billion to build Skyway 2. CMMTC contracted D.M. Consunji Inc. (DMCI) to design and build Skyway 2. The 9.5-km Skyway 1 from Buendia to Bicutan was built 10 years ago.
Somco president and CEO Chito Borromeo says that they had to increase the toll rates because the integrated Skyway has a 30-year concession and there is no government subsidy for it. Aside from building Skyway 2, Somco also spent for massive restoration works on Skyway Stage 1 that included, aside from the 43 CCTV cameras, the rotomilling, asphalting and lane marking of the Magallanes-Alabang ground-level section, the upgrading of the Skyway’s toll collection facilities and the construction of new toll facilities to comply with the TRB’s requirements. There are no entry points in Bicutan and Sucat going to Alabang and no exit points in Bicutan and Sucat from Alabang.
Skyway 2 from Bicutan to Alabang was opened to traffic on April 7 free of charge until April 20. On April 26, Somco began applying the new rating system that is based on origin and destination and was approved on April 15 by the TRB. Somco says that CMMTC hosted a series of public consultation meetings for various Skyway stakeholders from December 2010 to March 2011 and a public hearing on April 6 regarding the proposed new toll rates.
Since Skyway 2 has about 4,000 pre-stressed concrete girders supporting the concrete slabs, it can withstand even a magnitude-7 earthquake, Borromeo asserts. The Skyway System was designed based on the strict earthquake code requirements of the Philippines that are the same as those in California, USA, he added.
As an Alabang resident, I can testify that because of the smooth, world-class Skyway 2, I can drive from Alabang to Makati in 12 minutes at the minimum 80 kph speed or in only 5 to 6 minutes at higher speeds. This translates into big savings on fuel and vehicle operating costs for motorists plying Skyway 2. My only beef is that the South Station exit to Alabang-Zapote Road has only one lane and two toll booths.
Certainly, motorists cannot begrudge CMMTC and Somco their right to slowly recoup their financial investments via the new authorized toll rates. The new rates will allow Somco to undertake regular and preventive maintenance of the Skyway system’s structure and facilities so that these can still be of service to future generations of motorists.
Meanwhile, here’s more info on the 24/7 surveillance and monitoring system that consists of a high-tech command center and 43 CCTV cameras mounted all along the Skyway system. According to Somco, “the cameras can pivot 360 degrees in all directions and have 24 times high-density zoom-in capabilities and 120 times digital magnification that let Skyway authorities monitor all vehicles using the toll road and its environs round-the-clock. Transmission of data between the cameras and the Command Center is done via fiber optics, ensuring real-time viewing of images, preserving their clarity and quality and eliminating delays in transmission regardless of each camera’s distance from the command center. The new monitoring facility allows Somco to step up its response time by easily spotting stalled vehicles, emergency situations and other unusual incidents. It also helps deter crimes such as theft and car theft, and aid in the timely investigation of such cases by recording date-time signatures of events and visual information that can reveal vehicle plate numbers and even people’s faces.”
Hold the horsepower, speedsters!
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