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Build, build, build, and the cost of pursuing legacies among our leaders

Much has been written about the current administration’s Build, Build, Build program including it being billed as a “Golden Age of Infrastructure”. Many infrastructure projects though can be classified as “nice to have but not necessary”. They might become necessary in the future but then there are other projects that are more urgently needed now and need to be prioritised given the limited resources that we have. A good example of these “nice to have” projects would be the bridges proposed to connect Panay, Negros, Cebu and Bohol islands. The reality is that it is quite easy to manipulate studies in order to obtain results to support the construction of these bridges including justifying loans that will bring us deeper into unnecessary (for now) debt. You get more bang for the buck if you build instead mass transit systems and transform transportation in major cities of these same islands to favour active transport rather than be dependent on cars. Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod and other highly urbanised cities now require better public transportation and people-oriented systems. That’s where money should go and that will have a bigger impact from now to the long-term. The government’s infrastructure build-up is linked to the new tax scheme (TRAIN) but also requires a lot of borrowing from various entities including one country that has been documented to take full advantage (i.e., very disadvantageous to the borrower) of countries taking out loans from them (you know which one – China). Do we really want to get mired in such debt?

We all are in the lookout for opportunities that would probably give us something we will be remembered for. This is not limited to the leaders of our country, whether they be politicians or department heads or even district engineers, who perhaps want to be remembered for something they built, or, something they contributed in making a reality. Perhaps this can be in the form of a mass transit line, an expressway, or an iconic bridge? Perhaps for others it is in the form of a nuclear power plant or even a space program. We all have that dream project we want to be associated with.

Why are certain good people not critical of the government’s disastrous war on drugs or the proliferation of what appears to be government sponsored fake news and propaganda? It’s simple. Many of these “good” people are benefitting from the very same government particularly in pursuit of their own legacies (which are their main agenda). If you were an engineer, planner or scientist in government and your projects were funded one way or another, would you dare bite the proverbial hand that feeds you? “Complicit” seems to be a word used by the more hardline among us in terms of the socio-political-economic situation we are in now. But we have to remember that during the regime of Marcos, this was also the situation. The so-called best and the brightest were all employed by the administration back then including prominent names in industry and the academe, who perhaps enjoyed the privileges, perks and funding support for their programs and projects. Never mind martial law and its outcomes.

That is why history and its understanding is important. So we may learn from it and not relive the wrongs made in the past. We are not good in history or its application. Perhaps we only know how to memorise. And memory has its limits. That is among the costs of our current predicament. We withhold history, and memory, in exchange for what we think would be our legacies. At what cost? At what price? Human rights, freedoms, justice, financial stability, and dignity are just a few we can mention. Perhaps the biggest loss will be our humanity as we have become de-sensitized to the well-being of others.

Cavitex

I had wanted to post about the Manila-Cavite Expressway (Cavitex) but kept putting it off as I had few photos of the tollway. Formerly known as the Coastal Road, it is now operated by the Metro Pacific group, which also operates the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and the Subic Freeport Expressway (SFX). Here are photos I took last February this year when we went to Bacoor with our Japanese research lead. Most of the photos show sections towards Cavite (southbound).

The tollways has 3 lanes along each direction.

On one side is the bay where reclamation projects are proposed or currently under way.

Lane markings in an attempt to position vehicles towards the toll plaza, which is visible from afar in the photo

Vehicles queuing at the toll plaza – it can get very congested here during the peak periods and seasons.

Cavitex toll plaza

There is basically one toll plaza for the tollway for either direction.

Free-flowing traffic during an off-peak period

Approaching the interchange where vehicles bound for Bacoor, Imus and Las Pinas take the right side of the road to exit via the trumpet ramp shown ahead at right. Other vehicles bound for Kawit and Cavite City go straight.

Climbing the ramp to exit towards Bacoor, Cavite

Off-ramp to Bacoor, Imus and Las Pinas

Where expressway meets the national highway

Overpass towards the tollway

Toll plaza for the northbound (to Manila) direction

Updates on the MRT Line 7 construction

I recently posted some photos showing the progress of work on the Line 2 Extension. This time, I wanted to show photos on the progress of the Line 7 construction along Commonwealth Avenue. Following are some photos my companion took this morning as we headed for Novaliches. Work continues along this major corridor even on Sundays. While it has caused much congestions and therefore inconvenience, the continuous work offers hope to those who will benefit from this mass transit line once it becomes operational.

Columns rise along Commonwealth Avenue just across from the Ever mall and St. Peter’s church.

Here’s a traveler’s view of the ongoing construction along Commonwealth Avenue.

Concreting even on Sundays – it was quite congested today near the Fairview Market due to lanes occupied by heavy equipment including several concrete mixers lined up along one lane to supply the mix.

I have several former students who are now working on the Line 7 construction in various capacities. I usually get my updates from them. I am happy for them to be involved in such a major infrastructure undertaking. Hopefully, their experiences will be useful for other future railway lines in the country.

Some updates on the Line 2 Extension

I just wanted to post a couple of photos showing the progress of the Line 2 Extension construction work. There are two stations along the extension including the future end station before the Masinag Junction (intersection of Marcos Highway and Sumulong Highway).

Ongoing construction of the Line 2 Masinag Station just across from SM City Masinag in Antipolo City, Rizal – there are actually 3 usable lanes with only the middle being a full lane, the other two have concrete barriers encroaching along the site as shown in the photo.

Ongoing construction of the Emerald Station across from both the Sta. Lucia and Robinsons Metro East malls at the boundaries of Pasig City, Marikina City and Cainta – the construction site here is longer than the one for Masinag but has wider spaces for traffic. Volumes, however, are significantly heavier than at Masinag so this area can easily become congested with traffic often stretching past the PLDT  office along the westbound side and Ligaya along the eastbound side.

I will post more about the progress of construction for these stations in the future especially as it would be interesting to see the actual forms of the stations.

8th Regional Symposium on Infrastructure Development (RSID)

I would like to promote a symposium that our Institute of Civil Engineering (ICE) at the University of the Philippines Diliman will be hosting this year.

The Institute of Civil Engineering, University of the Philippines Diliman together with Kasetsart University (Thailand) and Tokyo Institute of Technology (Japan) is pleased to invite you to participate in the:

8th Regional Symposium on Infrastructure Development
in Civil Engineering (RSID8)

Theme: Resilient Infrastructure Through Engineering Innovation

Date & Venue: October 25-26, 2018 Institute of Civil Engineering,
University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City Philippines

Abstract Submission:
Those who wish to present in this symposium are invited to submit and abstract of about 500 words under the following themes:
Sustainable Design, Materials and Construction
Sustainable Transport
Water Security and Disaster Mitigation
Resilient Strudtures
Geomechanics and Geoenvironment
Resource Efficiency and Waste Management
Deadline for Abstract Submission: April 16, 2018
Template: tinyurl.com/RSID8abstract

Please see attached poster of call for papers for more details.
Kindly disseminate to your colleagues who may be interested.

For more information of the conference please contact:

Christian R. Orozco
RSID8 Secretariat
Institute of Civil Engineering
University of the Philippines Diliman
Email: rsid2018@up.edu.ph
Website: conference.upd.edu.ph/index.php/RSID

Progress of C-6 expansion and upgrading

The recent news about the groundbreaking for the C-6 expressway led some people to this site and looking for information on C-6. Here are more photos I took last month (January 2018):

The future northbound lanes of C-6 is currently under rehabilitation and are being upgraded to Portland cement Concrete Pavement (PCCP). The new southbound lanes currently serve the two-way traffic.

The sign is an old one and perhaps still in use as a barrier more than for information

You see a lot of people jogging, walking and cycling along the finished road. It shows the demand for spaces for such activities, including recreation, and a similar situation may be observed along C5 before and along the perimeter of Libingan ng mga Bayani where a lot of people do exercises and other activities along road sections that are closed to vehicular traffic.

With one lane completed the second lane is prepared for pouring of concrete. You can see the formworks along the median.

Other sections have yet to be prepared for concreting but have been stripped of the old pavement (Asphalt Concrete pavement or ACP).

What you see here at right is the compacted base/sub-base layer. The forms have not been installed yet.

Backhoe and roller at the worksite.

A grader in action.

I will post more photos later from the next time I pass by the area. From what I’ve hear so far, traffic has eased along the expanded Barkadahan Bridge but there are still bottlenecks to address along this alternative route. There will also be a need to have a higher capacity, less friction connection between C-6 and C-5 as traffic along C-6 increases and it’s become quite obvious that Taguig’s narrow streets cannot handle this increasing travel demand between the two highways. It makes sense to have a higher quality, limited access road for this purpose since Taguig roads are already congested and through traffic poses a safety hazard to the residential areas where vehicles travel through.

Another look at the San Juanico Bridge

We have an ongoing project with the City of Tacloban and recently we went around the northern part of the city where many relocation sites were established after the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). After doing our fieldwork, we decided to cross the San Juanico Bridge into Samar island where we were told there’s a nice restaurant sitting atop a hill in the town of Sta. Rita.

Despite the rains, we managed to get some photos of the breathtaking views. Among these were this photo of the bridge as seen from Samar. Leyte and Tacloban are behind the bridge.

It is said that the part of the bridge on the Samar side has that distinctive ‘S’ shape while the Leyte side is a simple ‘L’ form. Trucks are weighed before they get on the bridge and the DPWH maintains a weigh station for this purpose before the Samar end. I didnt notice any from the Leyte side. Perhaps this is because most loaded trucks come via Samar rather that from Leyte?

Traffic along the San Juanico is usually light. This is despite the route being part of the eastern spine or nautical highway that is also part of the Asian Highway network. This leads me to suspect that similar (but longer and more expensive) bridges proposed for connecting other islands are unnecessary and cannot be justified when compared with other more urgent infrastructure projects including those that wil address urban congestion and promote improved mobility. The latter are more urgent and meaningful than massive structures that fewer people will use and benefit from.