MNTC set to open vital NLEx artery in Bulacan

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A new section of North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) is set to open next month, benefiting thousands of motorists plying this vital artery, Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) announced.

The new NLEx Balagtas Interchange in Bulacan, which will connect to the state-built Plaridel Bypass Road, will open on March 20 as scheduled, said MNTC, the road concessionaire.

MNTC president Rodrigo Franco said the company earmarked P109 million for various fixed and non-fixed operating equipment, plus P22 million for operation and maintenance expenses of the Balagtas Interchange and a portion of the Plaridel bypass road.

The Balagtas Interchange is the 16th such facility to open along NLEx.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said the 24.61-kilometer bypass road from Burol, Balagtas, to San Rafael would be composed of four contract packages and would be implemented under two phases. Phase I will cover implementation of Contract Package 1, which is already completed, and Contract Package 2, which is ongoing.

DPWH Undersecretary Rafael Yabut said Contract Package 1 involved the construction of a 6.87-kilometer road, a 2.4-kilometer access road, interchange, toll gate facilities (toll gate plaza, toll supervision building, electrical service center, and pump house), and drainage and slope protection works. The section will reduce travel time from Balagtas to Bulihan, Plaridel, by 20 minutes.

Contract Package 2, meanwhile, traverses Bulihan, Plaridel, to Bustos, Bulacan. This will involve the construction of a 7.53-kilometer road, seven bridges, and drainage and slope protection works. Package 2 will be completed by February 2013.

DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson is also pushing for the early implementation of Phase II (Contract Packages 3 and 4) of the Plaridel Bypass Project, covering 9.96 kilometers from Bustos to San Rafael. This will be funded by a forthcoming loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

MNTC’s Franco said the new Balagtas section was part of a “blueprint for expansion of expressway projects that also go deep into the metropolis.”

In 2010, MNTC opened the NLEX-Mindanao Avenue link, decongesting EDSA Balintawak and offering motorists an alternative route going north. A planned extension to this, dubbed Segment 8.2, is also being drawn up. This will connect NLEx to Circumferential Road 5, or C5, one of Metro Manila’s major thoroughfares.

The leading expressway builder is also set to construct the NLEX Harbor link, opening the way toward Manila’s Port Area.

“This expressway link is expected to significantly speed up and reduce the cost of transporting cargo from Central and Northern Luzon to the North Harbor, the domestic port complex of Metro Manila,” Franco said.

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