LEGAZPI CITY: The funding for the urgent widening of a major bridge on the national highway that serves as main link between this booming city with various growth areas in the first district of Albay has been assured with funding from Malacañang, according to City Mayor Noel Rosal.
“Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III gave this assurance to me when he visited the city for the inauguration last May 19 of the newly completed Bicol University Health Sciences Building which will house the first state-run medical school in the Bicol region, the Bicol University College of Medicine,” Rosal told the PNA here Thursday.
In fact, the city mayor said, an initial amount of Php50 million had already been allocated for the project under the 2014 General Appropriation Act and released by the Department of Budget and Management to the Department of Public Works and Highways, which will implement it starting soon.
The project is the widening to four lanes of the Yawa Bridge, a 64-meter-long concrete structure whose two-lane make has grown too narrow for the burgeoning traffic between the city proper and its urban barangays on the northern side down to Tabaco City and five municipalities of the province’s first district.
The total cost of the project “which we consider a priority” was placed at Php140 million—an amount that was already approved by Pres. Aquino, Rosal said.
On apprehensions aired by some motorists that the construction will cause more traffic congestion along the route, the city mayor said “don’t worry, we are not going to knock down the bridge to give way to the construction. The additional two lanes will be constructed parallel with the two sides of the existing bridge so there is no need to close it and construct a detour structure.”
The bridge that crosses over Yawa River, a major waterway that emanates from the southern slope of Mt. Mayon facing the city, was constructed several decades ago and was repaired and reinforced in 2000 to withstand the avalanches of volcanic debris during flash floods.
Like most areas of Albay, this city is prone to flash floods due to its proximity to lahar gullies and waterways on the slopes of Mayon Volcano.
Lahar and water rampage during heavy rains while many of the city’s barangays are in low-lying areas.
“The city government, under its public safety program, has been enhancing its calamity resilience and with flood-resistant projects like Yawa Bridge, our place will soon be an all-weather city so that it becomes a very livable place more than ever,” Rosal said.
While the bridge serves that purpose and prevented the traffic cut-off during heavy rain and typhoon situations, the problem now, Rosal said, is the growing number of motorists to which the bridge would become the bottleneck of vehicles coming from both directions that are four-lane roads.
The improvement to four lanes of this bridge is also part of the local tourism-related infrastructure projects being helped by the administration of Pres. Aquino to maintain this city as the best haven for tourists and grand conventions or similar gatherings and business center for Bicol.
Recognized in the world’s travel market as the “City of Fun and Adventure,” the city’s tourism industry has been growing impressively with a whopping increase of 32.27 percent in tourist arrivals last year.
As recorded by the regional office for Bicol of the Department of Tourism based here, the total arrivals of both domestic and foreign tourists in the city for the whole year of 2013 reached 579, 470 which was higher by 141,370 over the 2012’s 438,100 figure.
“Our 2013 tourist arrival figure is good enough for the main time—surpassing even the 523,832 arrivals that the entire province of Albay posted in 2012. We hit the half-million mark last year and by 2016, our goal is to hit the one-million mark,” Rosal said.
Another local tourism-related infrastructure project that is supported by the Aquino administration is the P200-million “tourism mega highway” now ongoing construction to open a direct link between the city and the new Southern Luzon International Airport now being constructed in the nearby Daraga, Albay.
It will be a 10-kilometer concrete road whose prime section is the now-famous Legazpi Boulevard in Barangay Puro, a four-kilometer stretch of wide concrete road bordering the long beach of Albay Gulf and serving as an artistic milieu for physical fitness activities that is well-lighted at night, clean, easily accessible, secure and free from air pollution.
The “tourism mega highway” will traverse several upland villages along the southern sector of the city and become the new local investment haven and another site for tourism industry development, Rosal added. PNA