Road infrastructure projects are always the key to economic progress. They ease traffic, especially in urban centers, stimulate commerce and create social benefits.
One particular project that offers significant solution to our traffic jams is the NLEX-SLEX Connector, an eight kilometer four-lane, elevated expressway that will link the North Luzon Expressway and the South Luzon Expressway. It is the latest roadway project of the Manuel V. Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Tollways Corp.(MPTC).
The skyway will start from C-3 through the Caloocan Interchange, proceed through Blumentritt and España until it reaches Sta. Mesa, in the vicinity of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).
The NLEX segment of the connector road will be linked to the Skyway Stage 3, which then connects to the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX)–built and operated by SMC Infrastructure.
The NLEX-SLEX Connector project as planned will be completed in February 2023. Section 1, a 5.15-kilometer tollway, is 90-percent complete. This section starts at C3 Road in 5th Avenue in Caloocan City, and proceeds to España Boulevard in Manila. The Connector’s Section 2, a 2.75-kilometer segment that begins at España and proceeds all the way to PUP Sta. Mesa–is 22-percent finished.
MPTC, the originator of the connector project, looks forward to the construction of what is called the “interconnection structure”—a 1.2-kilometer segment. SMC Infrastructure, another major tollway builder and operator, is all set to install what others have now called the “missing link” to meet its completion target in the first quarter of 2023.
The partnership of MPTC and SMC Infrastructure over road connectivity follows the successful seamless link-up in the north. The NLEX easily hooked up with SMC’s Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) to significantly reduce travel time to the north of Luzon.
The road connector will cost MPTC a whopping P23.3 billion, but it is a small price to pay for an economic boon. The project will provide a solution to the perennial traffic problem—in the form of a seamless connection between the southern, central and northern parts of Luzon.The travel time from NLEX to SLEX and vice versa will be drastically cut by two hours to a mere 20 minutes.
The connector road aims to serve about 7,000 Class 2 and Class 3 vehicles, mostly trucks. Once these trucks are re-rerouted to the connector and away from the public roads, they will no longer be burdened by truck bans and the occasional “kotong.”
Smaller vehicles like cars and jeepneys will now have the roads to themselves. More specifically, traffic flow will greatly improve through major thoroughfares like España Boulevard, Abad Santos Avenue, Rizal Avenue and Lacson Avenue.
The Manila ports will also be directly connected to their various destinations northward and southward. The NAIA in Pasay City and the Clark Airport in Angeles will also be linked—heaven for air travelers.
Manufacturing facilities in the north and south of Luzon, in addition, will enjoy unhampered flow of raw materials and needed hardware and be able to produce more efficiently.
Metro Manila, per the recent study of the Boston Consulting Group, has the third worst traffic condition in Southeast Asia. Manila commuters in 2021, based on another study, lost some 15 hours going through the city’s rush hour traffic.
Earlier in 2014, a study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) reported that traffic congestion was costing the Philippine economy P2.4 billion a day. JICA warned that if this situation is not addressed soon, economic losses could swell to P5.4 billion a day by 2035.
Fair competition pushed
The rat race in urban centers is a never-ending struggle. Transport workers and consumers fight it out every day to get to their destination. Policymakers are also doing their part in ensuring the creation of a more conducive transportation system for them.
Grab PH, however, dismissed the government initiative when it entered into backdoor deal with MoveIt.
The MoveIt deal naturally raised an eyebrow from several consumer transport civic groups, like National Public Transport Coalition and Lawyers for Commuters Safety and Protection.
Grab PH has dominated the transport network vehicle services (TNVS) industry when it acquired Uber in 2018. Many suffered from unjust fare prices that prompted the Philippine Competition Commission to issue penalties.
But Grab wants more despite being the biggest player in the four-wheel sector of the ride-hailing industry.
Grab’s acquisition, which was not approved by the Department of Transportation’s Motorcycle Taxi Technical Working Group (TWG), has enabled it to join the government and civic-led pilot program on the motorcycle taxi market. The TWG only accredited Filipino companies Angkas, JoyRide and MoveIt for the pilot run that will serve as an aid for developing legislation to better govern the industry.
Thus, Grab PH’s dominance in the motorcycle taxi market is now feared. Its presence in the motorcycle taxi market will lessen competition, hurt passengers’ pockets and endanger the jobs of transportation workers.
Grab’s foray into the motorcycle taxi sector has raised a similar alarm when it began to dominate the regular taxi market. It has yet to submit its latest compliance report on whether it is following its commitments to fare transparency and pricing behavior.
The PCC earlier confirmed that Grab PH has been cited for overcharging when it acquired Uber. Grab PH as of March 2022 has not released P19.3 million in refunds to eligible passengers for violating its commitments.
Grab, perhaps, should first tend to its contentious business practices as part of the TNVS industry before joining a new one.