Cagayan Valley Roads – Part 1
The Cagayan Valley Road is part of Asian Highway – 26 (AH-26) and the Pan-Philippine Highway. I have had only three opportunities to travel along this road and only once so far was I able to cross into Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela and Cagayan. Two previous trips have only taken me as far as San Jose City in Nueva Ecija. When the chance to travel to Tuguegarao, Cagayan came up one time, I didn’t hesitate to volunteer and opted to take a road trip in order to have the best view of the land and points of interest along the corridor.
Tree-lined roads – from Gapan, Nueva Ecija, one is treated to sections lines with old trees. Sections generally have good asphalt pavements but markings are badly faded or non-existent.
Traffic is generally very light between towns and there are even few tricycles, the ubiquitous paratransit that is usually the mode of choice for local commuting.
Aside from the absence of pavement markings, there is also a dearth of road signs. While it may be reasoned that these are unnecessary due to the light traffic, there are minimum signs and markings required for such roads to guide motorists.
The only thing or things missing along this section are chevron signs to guide motorists negotiating the curve. Of course, in other places in the country the chevrons can be quite excessive.
Minimum required signs and markings along curves are shown in the photo with the double yellow indicating no passing along both sides of the road. Signs should, however, be free from obstructions. such as the makeshift fence of houses along the highway.
The solid yellow along the broken white lines states that motorists are prohibited from passing along the lane on the right using the left lane. Vehicles on the left (opposing traffic in this case) may overtake using the right lane.
Many sections have limited sight distance while having excellent pavements and markings. The sign on the right informing motorists of the curve ahead is damaged and needs to be repaired or replaces.
Scenes like these belong to coffee table books about rural roads. Unfortunately, there should also be signs along the road to guide motorists.
In this case, vehicles along the opposing lane are prohibited from overtaking. Vehicles along ours may overtake slower moving traffic.
Sections like this where sight distance is excellent is ideal for passing. Travelers should enjoy the view of the countryside and the mountains up ahead. Sadly, the mountains have much fewer trees after years of illegal logging that have exhausted our timber resources. These have remained generally unaddressed to this day.
Barriers set up by locals to slow down traffic – there are similar others placed on the road by the PNP, the DENR and barangays for various reasons including checkpoints for illegal logs, firearms, etc. While mostly for good intentions, these can become hazards along the road especially at night when the highway is generally poorly illuminated.
In addition to many sections not having standard markings and road signs, shoulders are practically non-existent partly due to encroachments on the ROW.
Marginal maintenance of roads is quite common where cracks are often addressed by asphalt seals. Several of the chevrons along this section have been taken by vandals with only the posts remaining along with 3 signs.
Poorly maintained section where the pavement already needs to be rehabilitated, i.e., “re-blocking” as it is often called is necessary for many sections where there is also a need to re-assess the base or sub-base layers.
Many sections have large cracks like this section. I took a photo of this also because of the old signs warning motorists of the reverse curve ahead and the speed limit of 30 kph. I doubt that the speed limit is enforced or followed by drivers and riders but the section is even more dangerous because of the plunge on one side and the barriers seem inadequate for preventing vehicles from taking off from the highway.
There are wide shoulders along the road for layovers of truckers and other motorists seeking some rest from a long travel. There are usually stores or eateries here where people can purchase some refreshments.
Trucks parked along the road – there are common areas where truck crews rest or have quick maintenance checks for their vehicles. There are typically repair and vulcanizing shops along these highways.
The long and winding road – sections like these could have been more dramatic if the mountains actually had trees. Needless to say, there are no pavement markings and signs along this section.
These mountain sections have been improved to include shoulders that are wide enough for traffic to use them as climbing lanes.
The shoulder along the outer edge of the highway is wide enough to allow for enough space for recovery or emergency stops. I am not sure though if the barriers are adequate for preventing vehicles from going over the ravine on this side of the road.
The drive along this highway was quite educating with respect to the varying conditions along our roads and the environmental impacts of deforestation. The climates here could have been cooler and the air fresher if the mountains had much more trees than what remained.
Along the way you encounter the occasional provincial bus – these are actually scheduled services by companies like Victory Liner, Florida, Baliwag, JAC Liner, etc.
Trucks parked along the highway – truck crews generally take rests on long trips and would usually time their travel to factor in the truck bans in some towns along their routes and in Metro Manila as well. It is usually difficult for them to travel continuously during the day as they are slowed down not just by the terrain but by local traffic (e.g., tricycles).
Unmarked – some sections have good pavements but don’t have standard markings. At the minimum, centerline and edge markings are desirable for such sections.
Slow climb – travel can be significantly slowed down by trucks negotiating the slopes. Trucks laden with goods are usually hindered by their loads as they would have to overcome gravity. In many cases, these trucks may be overloaded, making their engines work more to be able to carry their weights.
Passing maneuver – fortunately, traffic is generally light to make it possible for vehicles to pass slower moving ones. Note that there are no pavement markings to guide motorists along this section.
Typical horizontal curve with limited sight distance – such sections are quite common along the highway since due to the mountain ranges on this side of Luzon Island.
No signs? – while there are pavement markings along this section, the centerline marking should have been a solid yellow to discourage overtaking prior to and along the curvature, especially since sight distance is very limited by the terrain and the foliage. There should also be traffic signs to inform motorists of the approaching section and to guide drivers as they traverse the segment.
Similar road section along the highway – shoulder along the opposing lane is narrow and sight distance is limited by trees and other growth along the inner part of the curve.
Slope protection – the concrete wall was apparently constructed to prevent landslides or rockslides along this section of the highway.
Trucks generally require enough space to turn and curves seem to be adequate for the turning radii of most types of large trucks using the highway.
Reverse curve – this unusual section includes a concrete barrier to prevent wayward vehicles from going off the road and flying off the cliff on one side of the highway.
Engineers designed and constructed this section with a roof to protect the road section from landslides or rockslides. One will find similar structures along Marcos Highway on the road to/from Baguio City.
Sign by an organization informing motorists of the view deck along Balete Pass coming up along the road. There should be a standard sign for such attractions along our national roads. Perhaps there is already one erected in the area considering this photo was taken about 5 years ago.
Upon entering the province of Isabela, we decided to take the alternate route to avoid what we anticipated as heavy traffic along the towns and cities including Santiago and Ilagan. I will feature these sections in a future post that will serve as a sequel to this one.