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On the Tandang Sora flyover’s closure

The signs announcing the closure of the Tandang Sora flyover along Commonwealth Avenue are doing the rounds of social media. So are the traffic management plans (i.e., the re-routing maps for the area) that are being shared by many and soliciting a variety of reactions. The reactions are often angry or sad for those likely affected by the closure and the re-routing via Luzon Avenue, Congressional Avenue and Philcoa. The demolition of the flyover to give way to the future MRT-7 station will definitely lead to traffic congestion and longer travel times to a lot of commuters, whether using public or private transportation. However, there are only few comments so far about the impacts on pedestrians. Will the pedestrian footbridges be demolished, too? Will they be redesigned or replaced considering the high volume of pedestrians crossing this major intersection? Following are photos taken underneath the Tandang Sora flyover as we waited to make a U-turn. These show the pedestrian footbridges in the area that allow people to safely cross the wide Commonwealth Avenue.

View of the steel truss footbridge that goes underneath the Tandang Sora flyover

There are many signs installed on the footbridge including the speed limit for Commonwealth Avenue and a reminder to fasten seatbelts. Others are directional signs including those designating the lanes for public utility vehicles and motorcycles.

There is another steel footbridge that is of more recent design and construction connecting to the old truss bridge. This allows pedestrians to continue on to cross Tandang Sora. This example is actually one that invites questions pertaining to design. Why have two distinct designs instead of building on the previous one? Another case of “pwede na iyan” ?

Here’s another view of the two footbridges – one spanning Commonwealth and the other across Tandang Sora. Will these be demolished, too, to give way to the MRT-7 station? And will the MRT-7 Station design include a provision for non-passengers to cross Commonwealth and Tandang Sora? This seems to be the most logical way to design the station; integrating pedestrian (and cycling) needs to the infrastructure. But then again, that remains to be seen and perhaps someone can share the design of the Tandang Sora station for this to be scrutinized.

Throwback to 1995 – Baguio flyover

Baguio retains a special place in me as it is where I did my first out of town project back in 1995. This was  just after I finished my master’s at UP Diliman. The project was Baguio’s first flyover or overpass and it was being proposed along Bokawkan Road, which is then as now a very busy thoroughfare connecting the city to La Trinidad, the capital town of Benguet province. Our task was to determine the best configuration for the flyover including the required capacity for it and the remain at-grade roads once it was built.

I remember it was very rainy when we were there and our accommodations (which was volunteered by our client – their family’s vacation house in the city) turned out to be quite inhospitable. We had to buy blankets and make our own beds as we had practically no budget to stay at a hotel. I recall the house was a bit creepy especially for the last few days I stayed there by myself (my mentor had to go back to Manila) to supervise the traffic surveys at the proposed site of the flyover. That was quite the adventure for me then as I also tried to explore the city on foot. I walked the entire stretch of Session Road when it was still the Session Road (old) people reminisce about. I also walked around neighborhoods in the Gen. Luna area where the house I was staying at was located.

Here are some photos of the flyover now and the area where I supervised traffic surveys together with the bridge engineer who was from Baguio.

IMG_1769The flyover as seen from one of the side streets in the Trancoville district.

IMG_1770A closer look at this almost 20-year structure.

IMG_1771Traveling along the service road along the flyover and towards the direction of La Trinidad. Shown also in the photo is one of the pedestrian overpasses in the city. I actually like the architecture of these overpasses that seems more apt compared to Metro Manila’s steel structures.

IMG_1772I included this photo past the overpass to show how crowded Baguio is already with houses having replaced trees in many mountains and hills. These used to be all green with trees back in the 1990s with only a few shanties that had started to sprout back then. I have other photos of such scenes of houses growing out of the mountains around the city and will share those in another post soon. Such have become the representation of unsustainable development for a city that has become overcrowded and yet continue to attract many people who eventually become residents.

Minimum vertical clearance for railway, flyover, bridge and footbridge structures

Further to the discussion in the last post, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) recently came out with a Department Order providing a guide for minimum vertical clearance for railway, flyover, bridge and footbridge structures. A PDF of the DO may be found in the following link:

Department Order_No. 53_ Series of 2016

Of course, the DPWH Department Order No. 53 Series of 2016 may be found and downloaded directly at their website. Here’s a figure from the DO:

DPWH DO 53 s2016

End game: flyover frenzy

The Manila Bulletin featured news on the Japanese government extending a loan to the Philippines for road projects in Metro Manila that include the construction of several major interchanges. An excerpt from the article is as follows:

The Japanese government will be providing some P4 billion to the Philippines for road projects aimed at decongesting monstrous traffic jams in Metro Manila.

Noriaki Niwa, chief representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), said the loan will cover major interchanges to address traffic congestion in Metro Manila, including flyovers, and road links.

Among them are the interchanges on EDSA/Roosevelt/Congressional, EDSA/West/North, and C-5/Green Meadows and North/Mindanao Avenue.

“This is to help Metro Manila sustain growth and develop it as an attractive investment destination,” said Niwa.

While these interchanges have been recommended many years ago and are also reiterated in the recent transport roadmap for Mega Manila, one cannot help but make the observation that these projects will not alleviate congestion over the long term. Instead, it will likely encourage more vehicle traffic (with the availability of more road space – part of a vicious cycle).

Other major projects that are ongoing in Metro Manila include the NAIA Expressway, which is an elevated tollway connecting to the Skyway. A friend commented that this is basically a glorified flyover project as I will explain later in this post.

IMG10495-20150401-0636NAIA Expressway construction in full swing – a column rises near NAIA Terminal 3

IMG10498-20150401-0642NAIA Expressway elevated sections nearing completion across from Terminal 3

The term of the current administration concludes next year (2016) and so we are almost in the endgame, to borrow a term from chess. What seems to be a frantic move for the government to build all these flyovers (and elevated tollways) can be interpreted as a way to compensate for the underspending and underachieving ways of the government in putting up the necessary infrastructure to address transport and traffic problems in urban areas. Unfortunately, all the funding (public and private) seems to be going to road projects instead of to mass public transport systems like rail and BRT that should be the priority because these could provide the positive impacts over a longer term than what road projects could deliver in terms of mobility and sustainability.

A friend reminded me of a similar situation back in 1991/92 when government embarked on a slew of flyover projects in an effort to leave a legacy in transport. That administration’s excuse for failing to deliver any mass transit project was that it was transitioning from a dictatorship. However, it also failed to deliver on power projects, which led to the energy crisis that had to be solved quickly (but with costly PPP power plant projects). There is a looming energy crisis now but more worrying is a transport crisis as we continue to procrastinate about public transport infrastructure. Should we be hopeful of transport with the next administration? That is still a big question as of now.