On the road

Buendia to Balintawak in 20 minutes

By: Aida Sevilla Mendoza, May 22nd, 2012 10:20 PM

There was a time when driving from Alabang to Makati or vice versa took at least 45 minutes. Now, thanks to the elevated Skyway 2 from Nichols to Alabang, it takes only around 12 minutes.

And it gets better. Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corp., which designed and built Skyway Stages 1 and 2, is proposing to construct Skyway Stage 3 connecting the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) at Alabang to Balintawak before the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), thereby linking the major toll networks (Southern Tagalog Arterial Road or STAR, SLEx and NLEx) and drastically reducing travel time for motorists and commuters.

Nowadays, passing through EDSA from Buendia to reach Balintawak takes about an hour and a half—longer during peak hours. Skyway 3 would give motorists and commuters coming from Makati the option to skip bumpy, heavily congested EDSA or C5 and get to their destination in Quezon City in 20 minutes. Or from Makati to Sta. Mesa and Manila in 10 minutes.

Smoother. Travel time will not only be faster, it will also be smoother. Judging from the meticulousness with which Somco [Skyway O&M Corp.] maintains the ground level and elevated Skyway 1 and 2, the proposed 14-kilometer Skyway 3 from Buendia to Balintawak should offer motorists a smooth, world-class six-lane highway. People living near Balintawak can be in Makati or the airport in only 15 minutes instead of getting stuck in traffic for an hour or so and wasting fuel.

Skyway 3 will have eight access points—Buendia, Quirino Avenue, Plaza Dilao, Aurora Boulevard, E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon Boulevard, Sgt. Rivera and Balintawak—that will enable residents in Manila and Quezon City to travel swiftly, safely and conveniently to and from south, center and north of Metro Manila. In effect, Skyway 3 will be an efficient corridor above the narrow, congested roads of the metropolis that will not require a government subsidy.

Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corp. (CMMTC), which recently formed a joint venture with San Miguel Corp. to secure control over the SLEx, the STAR tollway and Metro Manila Skyway, has submitted an updated investment proposal for Skyway 3 to the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as an extension of the existing Skyway 1 and 2, and as part of the four-stage Metro Manila Skyway Project approved by the Ramos administration in 1995. Since it is not an unsolicited proposal, according to the opinion of the TRB, backed up by the Department of Justice, it is not subject to a challenge by other bidders.

Unsolicited. However, the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., which operates and manages the NLEx and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) under an interim agreement with the Bases Conversion Development Authority, has submitted to the DPWH an unsolicited proposal to build a 13.2-kilometer connector road running along the tracks of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) to link the SLEx aand NLEx. Citra claims that before Metro Pacific can start building its connector road, it will have to tackle right-of-way problems that may take five years to resolve. On the other hand, the Skyway 3 project is ready for implementation this year and can be completed within two years, Citra says.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, who worked for Maynilad Water Services Inc. before joining the government, told reporters that he has endorsed Metro Pacific’s connector road proposal to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), which reviews foreign-funded infrastructure projects. Maynilad is one of the companies in the Metro Pacific group headed by tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan, the arch rival of San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang in multibillion-peso business deals.

The TRB, which is under the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) headed by former Sen. Mar Roxas, is reviewing Citra’s updated proposal and has not yet recommended it to the NEDA.  Fortunately, before the perceived brewing clash between the DPWH and DOTC over the tollway projects could come to a head, Secretary Singson announced that he was recommending both the Citra and Metro Pacific proposals to President Aquino since they are two different projects catering to two different markets. Both companies welcomed Singson’s endorsement.

Right now, driving from Buendia to Balintawak in only 20 minutes is only a dream. But in two years it can be a reality, depending on President Aquino’s next move.

Correction: Contrary to what I wrote last May 9, (“Should the expressways’ speed limit be increased?”) the Skyway Patrol men are authorized to apprehend overspeeding motorists since they are deputized by the Land Transportation Office.

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