Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: July 2012

The San Juanico Bridge

The longest bridge in the Philippines is found between the islands of Samar and Leyte in the Visayas (central Philippines). Flying on a clear day, we saw the bridge as our plane maneuvered towards  Tacloban Airport. I took a few shots before our plane turned for the landing. Later, we also took a few photos along the bridge en route to Catbalogan, Samar.

Our first look at the San Juanico Bridge was from the air as our aircraft maneuvered towards Tacloban Airport. Leyte Island is on the right while Samar Island is on the left.

The Samar end of the bridge is in the town of Basey and the Leyte end is in Tacloban City.

The bridge is designed in order for vessels to be able to navigate under the superstructure. The construction obviously takes advantage of the islands in the San Juanico Strait.

Traffic along the bridge was quite low. Heavy vehicle traffic like the truck in the photo are usually regulated when using the bridge as the structure cannot carry too much load given the heavier trucks we have now. The DPWH is in charge of monitoring such heavy vehicle traffic and large trucks must get permission before traversing the bridge.

Quite unusual – this was the first time I saw a public utility motorcycle, called habal-habal in many parts of the country, that had a makeshift roof to provide shade to the rider and his passenger(s).

This is a view I’ve seen as a background in many photos as it shows an interesting section of the bridge as it eventually lands in Samar.

Given the light traffic along this bridge that connects two of the largest islands in the country, I am tempted to ponder on the proposals to build much longer bridges connecting other islands. One such proposal is for a bridge to connect the islands of Panay and Negros in Western Visayas. While traffic between these two islands will surely be more than that between Samar and Leyte, I would bet that this won’t be enough to justify the staggering cost of such infrastructure. Indeed, it will be a longer bridge and one that will be a marvel of engineering but it is a folly if seen from the perspective of the people in both islands having more pressing needs in both social and institutional infrastructures (e.g., health centers and schools) that spending money on such a bridge is just plain obscenity.

Manila East Road

The Manila East Road is located in the province of Rizal to the east of Metro Manila. The section of the highway featured in this post connects the towns of Taytay and Angono in the province of Rizal while also in the vicinity of Antipolo City, Cainta and Binangonan. References will tell us that the road actually stretches all the way to Laguna where it passes through the towns of Pangil, Pakil and Paete along the east coast of the Laguna de Bay and continues through more towns of Laguna until Calamba.

The following photos were taken one rainy afternoon while we were listening to the radio about senators giving their individual verdicts on the first article of impeachment for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. While there are rain drops visible in the photos, these did not obscure the view of the highway allowing us to take good enough shots to illustrate the stretch of the road from Angono to Taytay (junction with Ortigas Avenue Extension (R-5) and just before the ascent to Antipolo). It is supposed to be part of Radial Road 5 or R-5 but other references also point to the continuation of Ortigas Extension through Antipolo and Teresa as also part of R-5. These roads eventually converge in the town of Morong, Rizal.

Descending from an exclusive resort where we just had a workshop hosted by a national government agency, we traveled along a section that was a 4-lane undivided road being widened to have 3 lanes per direction. While there’s a sidewalk on one side, the other side did not have pedestrian facilities.

The section, it turns out, is a continuation of what was already a 6-lane highway as shown above.

The 6-lane section, however, constricts into 4-lanes near the junction to the original road passing through Angono town proper. Pavement conditions were good but most markings have faded or non-existent.

Typical of rural highways around the country, there is a proliferation of tricycles traveling along the Manila East Road. These often cause congestion due to their operations including having informal terminals along the highway.

The lack of pavement markings can be a source of confusion for motorists who are not guided and would have the tendency to encroach into the paths of other vehicles.

Rather simple sign to mark the boundary between Angono and Taytay. Elsewhere, there would have been an arch designed and put up by one of the towns and reflecting its character or showing off products or attractions.

Shanties and other structures of informal settlers line up along this section of the road, effectively constricting traffic. This is supposed to be a 4-lane section (perhaps more if we check the RROW) but roadside friction including the presence of roadside parking and informal structures reduce space to about 3 lanes as shown in the photo.

Most properties along the stretch of the highway seem unaware of building code provisions for pedestrian sidewalks and clearance in front of the building. These are matters that should have been inspected and ensured by local government.

Taytay is one of the more densely populated towns of Rizal and would probably already qualify for cityhood ahead of many other LGUs that became cities in the last few years despite having shaky incomes among other qualifications. Land use planning, however, does not look like something that was undertaken for much of the areas adjacent to the highway.

Pedestrians practically cross anywhere along the highway, with most like the man with a child in the photo seemingly uncaring about the risks posed by motor vehicles. In the case above, there are no pedestrian crossing signs or markings but in places where there are such designations people rarely follow the zebra crossings mainly out of ignorance and partly out of stubbornness.

Along one section, the road widens and has along the Ortigas-bound side (right in the photo) a 2-lane service road separate from the main carriageway by a narrow concrete island. The service road is also plagued by parking though its purpose seems to be that for loading and unloading of passengers.

Electric posts are located dangerously close to the road and would probably fall over if hit by a wayward vehicle. Such is probably the result of road-widening and shortcomings with coordination with the utility company as well as some fault, too, with the utility company as well.

Another section with excellent pavement conditions but no pavement markings.

There are short bridges along the highway due to the streams that run across the road from the mountains in the east to the general direction of Laguna De Bay and the Manggahan Floodway to the west. These bridges also tend to limit the width of the carriageway as shown in the photo.

After the bridge, the road widens back to 4 lanes and complete with standard markings. For the entire length of the road from Angono to Taytay there is a trend, based on our observations, that sections alternately widen and narrow based on the developments on either side of the road.

On-street mayhem is when you mix different kinds of vehicles and pedestrians on the road in the Philippines.

What is supposed to be a 4-lane road seems like a 2-lane carriageway because of some delineations missing and vehicle tending to hog the equivalent of 2 lanes like the vehicle in front of us.

Junction with A. Bonifacio Ave (from Imelda Ave. and the Cainta Junction). A. Bonifacio passes through the town centers of Cainta and Taytay but is usually a very congested road having a narrow 4-lane carriageway that’s effectively a 2-lane road. The Manila East Road effectively bypasses that road. Notice that after the junction, the road markings are all there.

Curve right after the junction

This section has a total of 8 lanes based on the pavement markings but effectively has only 6 as the outermost lanes are often occupied by parked vehicles or used by pedestrians in the absence of sidewalks along either side of the highway.

Pedestrian bridge between two buildings comprising the SM City Taytay. People have a tendency to cross at street-level so to force them to use the overpass, barriers were placed along the median. The barriers seem to be quite porous and I only wonder if anti-jaywalking policies are enforced in the area.

An 8-lane stretch of the highway featuring a covered court with the name of a provincial politician stamped on its roof. This section used to have only 4 lanes with some shoulder space on either side of the highway. The  DPWH and the local government had a measure of success in recovering land from encroachments and easing informal settlers off from the RROW, something that should probably be undertaken but which requires much more effort along sections shown in the previous photos.

Road widening was still being implemented along the Ortigas-bound side of the highway when we passed through. There was no congestion though since the carriageway was wide enough to carry the light traffic during the early afternoon.

The 8-lane section narrows to the equivalent of 6 lanes though the pavement markings seem to indicate only 4 lanes as shown in the photo. Already visible in the photo downstream of our position is the Tikling Junction – the intersection of the Manila East Road with Ortigas Avenue.

Approach to Ortigas Avenue Extension and Leonard Wood Road (which is to the left just before the intersection with Ortigas)

Junction with Ortigas Avenue Extension

Ongoing construction of the AGT at UP Diliman

People have been asking me if what was being constructed at the vacant lot near the College of Fine Arts and visible from the University Avenue and C.P. Garcia Avenue is the test track for the Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) project of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). I always replied in the affirmative even though I haven’t seen the construction site myself. I finally had an opportunity to visit the site though I could not go directly where people were working due to the ground conditions (it has been raining heavily in Metro Manila the past few days) and the fact that it was an impromptu visit.

The following photos confirm the ongoing construction in the area where steel bars for the columns of the elevated test track are already jutting out of the ground from the foundations. The contractor is MIESCOR, a sister firm of electric utility giant Meralco. The latter, of course, has a history with public rail transport as it operated the electric tranvias in old Manila. Meralco actually stands for Manila Electric Rail and Light Company and so it seems quite fitting rather than just coincidence that it is involved, through MIESCOR, in this project.

Project site as seen from Jacinto Street

Project site as seen from the corner of Jacinto Street and the access road to the UP Veterinary Hospital and the Campus Maintenance Office (CMO).

Columns rising – steel bars forming the reinforcement for the concrete columns of the elevated test track

Construction materials piled up at the site – the expanse of the area where the test track is being built can be appreciated in the photo. That’s the rooftop of the CHED building in the background in the upper left side of the photo.

I tried to get a photo where the other columns are visible

A view of the excavations and the line of columns leading to the track end near Jacinto Street

The closest shot I could get of a column under construction

The structure should gain form in the next few weeks when work on the columns are completed and the girders forming the tracks are laid out. Perhaps the power room for the test track will also be constructed in preparation for the power system installation along the track.

Loop D Loop Bridge

One of the more interesting features of a highway that I have seen in the Philippines is a certain Loop D Loop Bridge section along a secondary national road between the towns of Wright (Paranas) in Samar Province and Taft in Eastern Samar.

Following is a video of the loop section, which is quite unique given the terrain in the mountains of Samar Island:

Philippine railway plans in 1903

I was browsing the book by Arturo Corpuz (The Colonial Iron Horse: Railroads and Regional Development in the Philippines 1875-1935, U.P. Press, 1999) and remembered there was a figure there that illustrated what looked like an ultimate plan for railways north of Manila. The map, shown below, indicated that what was the Main Line North (MLN) was already planned to be extended all the way to Laoag in Ilocos Norte from the existing station in Dagupan, Pangasinan.

PNR expansion plans in 1903

The map also shows proposed and alternate plans for a branch of the railways run along the Cagayan Valley and all the way to Aparri, Cagayan. The map along with others from that period reinforce what I have termed as probably one of the biggest “what ifs?” in Philippine transport. If such plans were implemented and we had retained and even upgraded these lines, perhaps inter-provincial or inter-regional passenger and freight flow in Luzon could have been significantly different from what we currently have that is dominated by road transport. A fully developed MLN and MLS could have been game changers in the development of Luzon and the country in general. Long distance travel for both people and goods may not have been dependent on road-based vehicles, and perhaps could have been more affordable for many people before the emergence of air transport and the present’s budget airlines. In fact, a fully developed railway system could give budget airlines and bus companies a run for their money today and perhaps influence tourist transport as well.

Road congestion around NAIA: Sales Bridge

A particularly urgent problem concerning traffic congestion is the case of the Sales Bridge along the Sales Road at the Nichols/Villamor Air Base area. The bridge and the road is the main access from Fort Bonifacio and the Taguig/Makati areas and is used by most vehicles going to or coming from the airport not using EDSA and Tramo. That’s practically much of the airport-related traffic from Quezon City, Pasig, Marikina and Rizal Province. There’s usually also traffic congestion along Tramo from EDSA but this is predictable and the reason why more people tend to use the route via Sales Bridge. Nowadays its pretty bad in the Villamor area and this has been an inconvenience to a lot of travelers.

It’s been more than a couple of months now since repair/rehabilitation works for the Sales Bridge began and there are only a single lane bound for the west-bound direction and 2 lanes for the east-bound side.  From the last time I passed through the area, it seems that the work on the bridge will be taking more time to complete and so more people will have to endure the inconvenience of congestion in the area. There are not so many options for traffic re-routing but I believe traffic enforcers at the intersection of Sales Road and the West Service Road should prioritize traffic bound for or coming from the airport considering the latter being a major gateway not just for Metro Manila but for the country.

Vehicles queued along the east-bound side of Sales Road. The blue wall on the right is the fence of Villamor Air Base. The overpass on top is the access ramp for the Skyway.

2At the junction, where there is a roundabout for traffic coming from the airport, Sales Bridge and the West Service Road of the South Super Highway, traffic is all tied up and you can usually hear a lot of honking among motorists whose patience have been tested by the traffic jam.

While there are traffic enforcers posted at the intersection to manage traffic, they can only do so much given the capacity of the bridge. The volume of traffic from the airport and the service road can usually overwhelm the enforcers but they should try to establish priority for traffic. It seems that the west service road is usually given more priority than the traffic to and from the airport. This should not be the case here considering NAIA is a main gateway to Metro Manila and the country.