Edsa reblocking anomalies

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I  was interviewed by ABS-CBN TV Patrol last Wednesday, 23 April 2014, on issues about the controversial reblocking of Edsa last week by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). I was interviewed in my capacity as the executive director of the Citizens Infrastructure Integrity Watchdog or InfraWatch.

The reblocking of the 24-km Edsa was supposed to have started a year ago. However, no less than President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd held it in abeyance because of mounting public protests. The multi-billion rehabilitation of Metro Manila’s longest and most congested thoroughfare came as a complete surprise when it was announced by DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson in early 2013.

The justification given by Mr. Singson was the forthcoming World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2014 and the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) in 2015. It is most unfortunate that the reason given by the highest official of DPWH was pathetic: if not for the WEF and APEC events in Manila, the country’s most famous and historic highway would not be rehabilitated.

DPWH began tearing down concrete sections of EDSA in January this year. That immediately started the public outcry against the hours of traffic jams that the concreting engendered. The finale was the humungous traffic the reblocking caused on Wednesday and Thursday of Holy Week.


To say that the DPWH was accursed may be an understatement. Many passengers who made bus reservations lost their seats because they arrived late at the bus terminals. There were also road accidents when vehicles hit and bumped each other due to the tight situation of the traffic congestion.

Cracks on Edsa reblocking

The focus of the TV Patrol report of Ms. Carolyn Bonquin of ABS-CBN was on the cracks on the concrete pavement. DPWH Secretary Singson told Ms Bonquin that the thickness of the concrete is correct as per specifications. He blamed the early opening of Edsa to public use for causing the cracks.

Unfortunately, what the favorite Cabinet secretary of President B. S. Aquino 3rd said on television is very misleading to say the least, if not outright prevarications! The correct thickness of concrete does not necessarily mean it will not crack. What matters more than thickness is the compressive strength (psi) of the concrete. Thus, concrete can still crack even if it is twelve inches (12”) thick but does not have the specified strength.

Likewise, why did Secretary Singson agree to have Edsa opened one day earlier than scheduled if it would cause cracks on the concrete. The DPWH top official should not have acquiesced to MMDA’s demand of opening EDSA to traffic last Tuesday if what was really required was a three-day curing period for the concrete to attain it’s designed strength.
It is so pathetic to hear the DPWH Secretary say that the cracks can be repaired by epoxy injections. This is a flagrant admission that he and his people at DPWH (and maybe even his boss, President B. S. Aquno) believe it is all right for road concrete to crack because it can be repaired and fixed with epoxy anyway. This is a wrong attitude that not only breeds mediocrity but also sheer stupidity!

Real issue on reblocking

The real issue on the Edsa reblocking is why it was done in the first place? Based on the careful and measured observations of InfraWatch, 50% of the tearing down and later laying of concrete was not necessary because those stretches of Edsa were still good enough to be repaired and rehabilitated. When North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) was rehabilitated more than ten years ago, the Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC) was able to repair and rehabilitate more than 90% of the 85-km expressway without any reblocking. The same is true when the Nichols-Alabang section of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) was rehabilitated in the late 1990s. No reblocking whatsoever!

What is now worse than the reblocking is that DPWH will pave the new concrete with asphalt overlay.  This is insanity at its best or worst! If DPWH will do an asphalt overlay, why did they not just repair the existing concrete that had deteriorated instead of tearing it down and replacing it with new concrete?

No asphalt needed

For the benefit of those who are ignorant of concrete and asphalt matters, such as apparently the DPWH Secretary, new concrete pavement does not need an asphalt overlay. The best proofs are Romulo Highway in Tarlac and Pangasinan and the Bacolod-Silay Highway in Negros Occidental built in the late 1970s. These two highways, built by the South Korean Hanil construction company, lasted for more than 30 years before they were asphalted two-three years ago.

The two main concrete roads of the upscale Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa, Madrigal Avenue and Acacia Avenue, were also built in the late 1970s. After 35 years, no reblocking and no asphalt overlay had to be done.

Even the new concrete road inside the Marine Training Camp in Ternate, Cavite, near the Puerto Azul and Caylabne resorts, has no asphalt overlay. This relatively new road built to American standards by funds from the U.S. Government also has a drainage system that is not usually present in DPWH projects.

As in many projects of the DWPH, the reblocking of Edsa and the asphalt overlay is a sheer waste of scarce and precious public funds. The rehabilitation of Edsa could have been done in a cost-effective manner as early as three years ago in 2011.

rbrpilipinas@gmail.com

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8 Comments

  1. Yun po bang salitang road reblocking eh yong dating Road Repair? Kasi po nuong ako ay nakatsambang makapag abroad sa New Jersey at New York City ang ginagamit pong pang road repair eh aspalto na nakapatong sa bitak na sementadong kalye at nagagamit agad after 24 hours kahit na ng mga 16 wheelers. Sabi po ng aking anak na 22 years na duon eh ganun na sistema simula pa nung unang term ni Dubya which means eh 10 years plus ago na.

    • R. B. RAMOS on

      Yes, repair of concrete is easy as do-re-me. Then apply asphalt overlay. Just go to Goggle on Concrete Road Repair and you will a lot of ways to repair concrete. Ang dami at parang naglalaro ka lang. One of them, you can use immediately! Hopefully, the situation with the DPWH after the Daan na Matuwid Aquino Administration by 30 June 2016. Malapit na!

      In almost all developed countries in the world from Europe and America to Asia and Australia-New Zealand, more than 80% of their roads are made of Asphalt, which is More Efffective.
      .

  2. I am not an engineer but my observation tells me that the most important in roadwork is its foundation. However thick is the concrete it will crack if it’s foundation is weak. Reblocking will not achieve its original foundation. As the road is being used for years if not decades its foundation is untouched, original and further compacted. I feel the best way to rehab a road is by an asphalt overlay. Besides it is easier to rehabilitate an asphalt road in the future.

    • R. B. RAMOS on

      Yes, better to use Asphalt overlay after the repair. Slurry Micro Surfacing is also better since it costs much less and can be applied easily.

      The “foundation” should have stabllized after years or decades of use. this is assuming that the preparations from the subgrade, sub-base and base course were done right!

  3. francis carlos on

    Road re-blocking is a lot attractive than road repairing! In any project or business proposition, the costlier, the better for the service provider or contractor. Bigger projects can have enough margins to cover incidental expenses. In here, concrete pavement cracks are usually re-blocked while cracks resulting from newly re-blocking failures are fixed with epoxy injections for obvious reasons. What we really need is an honest to goodness assessment of those cracks! Of what really are the causes of cracking or failure (due to load stresses, due to concrete mixture strength, sub-grade softening, etc).

    • R. B. RAMOS on

      Good idea to know the cause(s) of cracks on concrete. Yes, DPWH must conduct forensic investigation, which it NEVER does for obvious reasons. You have the subgrade, the sub-base, the base course and the concrete. DPWH contractors do not even use the concrete paving equipment for better quality of concrete and riding comfort.

      Culprit is also the substandard concrete mix, which is what also happens with the Asphalt used that is why there is early deterioration on the surface.

  4. apolonio reyes on

    We lived for eight years in Toronto, Canada and after winter most of the streets and highways were all damaged. We seldom see that the highways were being repaired as they do ASPHALTING from 10 pm to 4 am. I asked one Filipino engineer working at the public works why they used asphalts instead of concrete in the highways? And he gave me the following advantages of asphalt;
    1) Asphalt is cheaper and easy to apply and repair than concrete. In four hours you can repair four to five kilometers depending on the thickness.
    2) Asphalt is more comfortable to drive than concrete roads which are bumpy.
    3) Asphalt does not damaged easily the under chassis of vehicles and give the tires longer life.
    4) In case of damaged to drainage system, asphalt could be easily repaired than concrete roads.

    Our NLEX and SLEX, after they were privatized were both asphalted and are now seldom repaired unlike EDSA which is yearly re-block which is not only expensive but cause monstrous traffic. I believe that DPWH officials are making money from road re-blocking with the use of the Curing Compounds, If not why do they always do Road Re-Blocking when most industrialized country use asphalt.?

    • R. B. RAMOS on

      Thank you for your comments. More than 80% of the roads, especially highways in developed countries from Europe, North America, Asia and Australia-New Zealand Do NOT Use Concrete. You have mentioned the advantages of asphalt over concrete.As I wrote in my column last week, 03 May 2014, the private sector in PH also uses Asphalt from NLEX and SCTEX to SLEX that now includes the Star Expressway to Batangas. Same in Makati developed by Ayala, Fort Bonifacio in Taguig and Filinvest City in Alabang Muntinlupa.

      The use of concrete in PH is due to Corruption. Concrete cost much more than Asphalt, so it increases the project cost and the commission of the DPWH and local government units (LGUs). Yes, ReBlocking along EDSA is a function of Corruption. As i wrote, More Than 50% can be repaired and rehabilitated. In NLEX, they were able to make use of More Than 90% of the existing concrete pavement by rehabilitating it.

      There is another product that is cheaper than Concrete & Asphalt. It is called Slurry Micro Surfacing. In North America, it cost 1/3 of Asphalt ! it is being used in Europe, China, Russia, Asia, Latin America except the Philippines.