THE horrendous traffic gridlock that Metro Manila commuters are experiencing this Yuletide season underscores the urgent need for the Aquino administration to expand Metro Manila’s road network and decongest our clogged roadways.
One of the road projects that ought to have been implemented by the Aquino administration was the construction of a tunnel or skyway along the busiest road in the country: the 22-kilometer long Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (Edsa).
We recall that sometime in 2011, during the early years of the Aquino administration, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson unveiled a government plan to construct an “elevated” or a “tunnel” expressway along Edsa that will stretch from Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City to Monumento in Caloocan City.
Dubbed the “New EDSA,” the tunnel or skyway would have six lanes, garnering an initial funding of P50-billion through Official Development Assistance (ODA) from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) or the Public and Private Partnership (PPP) program.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was then chairman of the Senate committee on finance, said the project would be the “ultimate solution to the hell that we go through every time we pass by Edsa.”
Many experts agree that a skyway or tunnel along Edsa will greatly ease the flow of traffic throughout the metropolis. That’s because this circa-1954 highway is the backbone of Metro Manila. Putting up a skyway or tunnel expressway along Edsa will, in theory, cut vehicular traffic in half.
Historically and by design, the urbanization of Metro Manila spreads outward from EDSA. If you will notice, the country’s major business districts (like those in Ortigas and Makati) as well as prime commercial and residential areas are all within walking distance from Edsa.
Even now, lots along Edsa are the still choice location of property developers for their malls and condominium projects. That is to be expected since Edsa is the only thoroughfare in Metro Manila that connects several major cities, namely: Caloocan, Quezon City, Pasig, Mandaluyong, Makati, and Pasay.
However, for one reason or another, the “New Edsa” project was quickly shelved by the Aquino administration in 2012. In its place, PNoy launched the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road Projects of two of the biggest (and well-connected) business conglomerates in the country – San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and the Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC).
According to PNoy, the connector road projects will decongest Edsa. Traffic management engineers and ordinary motorists all agree that that isn’t going to happen.
MPIC and SMC’s connector roads won’t have much impact on the Edsa gridlock because they’re all concentrated on the west corridor of Edsa. True, those travelling from SLEX to NLEX and vice-versa will have it much easier. But experts say these constitute a small percentage of the 2.4 million vehicles that pass through Edsa every single day.
Studies have shown that the bulk of the vehicles plying Edsa are those that travel east-west rather than north-south. For instance, people working in the Makati central business district but living in the Commonwealth area will have to pass through Edsa to get home. In the same way, those in the eastern section of Metro Manila like Cainta have to take Edsa if they want to go to Buendia, for example.
Building a skyway or tunnel in Edsa with strategic off-ramps on both sides will open up an alternative east-west transportation corridor and significantly reduce the congestion in Metro Manila’s main circumferential artery.
But we’re sure the Edsa skyway project will have a lot of opponents.
For one, the ‘influential’ owners of the big malls, shopping centers, condominiums and office buildings along Edsa won’t be too happy seeing their properties (and property values) dwarfed by an elevated expressway. Meanwhile, residents of the exclusive villages and gated communities in the periphery of Edsa will definitely complain about the loss of privacy from a high-rise skyway.
There are also those who argue that an Edsa skyway will only breed more cars on the road. But isn’t the purpose of constructing new roads to accommodate the inevitable growth in vehicle numbers?
Besides, isn’t it quite hypocritical of the government to let Filipino commuters suffer the daily traffic nightmare while at the same time encouraging foreign car manufacturers (like Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Honda, etc.) to invest, stay and sell cars in the country, most of which will end up in Metro Manila’s jammed roadways?
As it is, the cost of traffic in Metro Manila is around P2.4-billion per day or P876-billion every year based on a recent study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Constructing the P50-billion Edsa skyway or tunnel is still significantly cheaper than what Filipino commuters are losing in terms of fuel, transport and other economic costs. This, however, requires political will – a rare commodity nowadays, especially with an administration unwilling to displease its friends and allies.