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Scenic highways? On the irony of “Daang Kalikasan”

There’s a lot of buzz about new roads nearing completion in the provinces of Pangasinan and Zambales. What is touted as scenic highways became an instant hit and attracted a lot of visitors who apparently wasted little time in trashing the area. The recent news now state that the road has been closed due to the garbage and some road crashes attributed to the influx of tourists in the area:

Mountain roads linking Pangasinan, Zambales closed over accidents, trash

There were a lot of posts that appeared on my social media newsfeed about these roads and the scenery around them. While I have seen a lot of roads with splendid or even magnificent sceneries whenever I go on road trips, the first thing that came to my mind was a question whether the landscape was like that before. I suspected that there used to be forests on these mountains and that the trees were irresponsibly cut down (some people will use the word ‘harvested’ as if they grew and cared for the trees) and never replaced. Some friends from Zambales say there used to be trees there and another recalled old dirt roads in the areas used for logging. So it’s ironic that the road is named “Daang Kailkasan” when nature was practically raped by people who ravaged the land many years ago. Indigenous people who we often refer to as “katutubo” also would likely have never consumed more than what they needed. Scenic? Maybe ‘depressing’ is a more suitable term for these roads.

 

Highway 2000, Taytay, Rizal

Prior to taking the photos I posted on Barkadahan Bridge, I was able to take a few photos of Highway 2000.

Section right after the Taytay Public Market – it is basically a 4-lane road but there are no lane markings for either direction. There is only the double line indicating which sides are for opposing flows of traffic.

Informal shops along the highway

There are many garments and textile factories and depots/warehouses along Highway 2000 and from their names appear to be Chinese-Filipino or Chinese-owned businesses.

There are also several gas stations along the highway including this Shell station that used to have cheaper fuel prices than others like it in Taytay and Antipolo.

Bikers along the highway – new pavement markings should include those for bike lanes on either side of the highway. Ideally, bike lanes or bikeways should be protected and consistent with the design along C-6.

There seems to still be a lot of informal settlers along this road as evidenced by shanties on either side of the highway.

There are many trucks using Highway 2000. Among them are those carrying tractors or heavy equipment like the one shown here hauling a bulldozer.

Orange barriers delineate opposing traffic at the Highway 2000 approach to Barkadahan Bridge. The intersection before the bridge is with the East Bank Road of the Manggahan Floodway.

I posted the following photo earlier. This show the RROW acquired along the eastbound side of Highway 2000.

Highway 2000 already figures as a major link between Rizal and Metro Manila. It is part of an alternate route between Rizal and major CBDs like BGC and Makati via Circumferential Road 6. It is also a route to the south via Bicutan and eventually SLEX. Thus, it is imperative that this corridor and the Barkadahan Bridge be improved in order to carry the potential traffic (both non-motorized and motorized) that it is supposed to. Highway 2000 in particular should already feature protected bike lanes consistent with the design along C-6 in order for it to be transformed into part of a “bicycle highway” that can be the backbone for cycling as a mode for commuting.

Dangerous situations for school children

We are currently implementing a project to improve the safety of journeys of children between their homes and schools. Ocular surveys of 25 schools in Zamboanga City revealed a lot of issues pertaining to their commutes. Critical locations include the main access roads (e.g., across school gates) and intersections. All schools have reported incidence of road crashes involving their students and mentioned that in many cases, drivers or riders do not slow down upon approaching the critical locations. These cases of speeding are despite the many countermeasures (including informal and creative ones) that schools and Barangay authorities have implemented to improve safety.

Here are some photos we took at Sinunuc Elementary School along the national highway in Zamboanga City:

Children waiting to cross the highway and on-board motorcycles with their parents/guardians who fetched them from school

Large vehicles including trucks and buses traverse the highway and the signs offer little in terms of refuge or protection against these for students and other people crossing the highway.

Child crossing with a parent/guardian

Children crossing the highway – photo also shows a pedestrian crossing sign at the road side along the direction towards the city centre.

Children crossing with their parents/guardians as a jeepney is stopped right before the pedestrian crossing.

Though it may not be so obvious for some observers or viewers of the photos, these situations present high risks for students and others using the roads. And we hope our assessments in cooperation with the schools, agencies and city officials will be fruitful in improving road safety especially for the children.

A little bit of history – on how the US interstate highway system came to be

Here’s one of those quick shares that I usually post here. I am a bit of a history buff and mixing that with transport will likely lead to a post like this. Here is a short article about an event in the history of the US Army that happened 100 years ago:

editor@aashto.org (2019) Celebrating Highway History: The US Army’s 1919 Cross-Country Convoy, aashto.org, https://aashtojournal.org/2019/07/12/celebrating-highway-history-the-u-s-armys-1919-cross-country-convoy/ [Last accessed: July 12, 2019]

The article was particularly interesting for me because of two items: the road conditions and the man behind the US inter-state highway system. It took them a little over 2 months to cross the continental US because of poor road conditions. Many people have no sense of history and appreciation of what has been accomplished over the years and how difficult it was to travel at the time. I haven’t done the cross country trip but I have close friends who’ve done it and are thankful for the generally good roads they could use for the experiential road trip. Meanwhile, the person in the article – then Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower – is a man who made his mark in history at first as the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in the European Theater in World War 2, who would later on become President of the US. I read elsewhere that the US interstate highway system was designed so aircraft may use them as runways in cases when the US were at war and the enemy had bombed their airports and airfields (just like what the Japanese did in the Pacific).

Do we have similar accounts for our roads and bridges in the Philippines? Were there key persons who may or may not be larger than life figures instrumental in developing our road infrastructure with their vision and leadership (Marcos doesn’t count because of his bogus military record and corrupt regime)? It would be nice to compile these and perhaps it should be a collaboration between the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the National Historical Commission (NHC). They could even get the history departments of local universities involved for us to understand the evolution of transportation in this country.

Vertical curves along the Pan Philippine Highway

We start the month of March with a compilation of photos of vertical curves (mostly sags). These were taken along the Andaya Highway, which serves as the main bypass road in Camarines that allows travellers to bypass, for example, Daet.

 

These photos do not have captions and I leave it to my readers to have an appreciation of the features of these sections. These include wide carriageways with paved shoulders. There are also sections that have no shoulders. For most photos, the pavement appears to be in good condition. However, the same cannot be said for much of the highway, sections of which are being rehabilitated along with several bridges.

Another look at the Bitukang Manok

I recently featured photos of the old zigzag road along the Pan Philippine Highway that is more popularly known as the “Bitukang Manok”. Those photos were taken on an early morning while we were on our way to Bicol earlier this month. Following are photos of the old zigzag road taken on the afternoon of our return trip to Manila.

Crossroads – at the intersection at the southern end where travellers decide whether to take the Bitukang Manok or the newer and easier bypass road

The sign states: Vehicles with 6 or more wheels are prohibited from using the old zig-zag road.

Sign for the Quezon National Forest Park – this designation is attributed to a former President and local congressman

Here’s a photo of one of the more challenging sections. A team of flagmen manage traffic by giving turns to either direction, ensuring slower speeds and wider turning at the hairpin curve. Travelers often toss coins as a token of gratitude for these flagmen who man this challenging section of the national highway 24 hours/day.

The barriers and signs along Bitukang Manok have been upgraded and are well-maintained.

Approach to the northern end of the old zigzag road

Directional sign at the other end of Bitukang Manok showing the options for travellers and  another advisory stating the prohibition of large vehicles along the old zigzag road.

Bitukang Manok

I woke up from a long nap just before we entered a major zigzag section of the Pan Philippine Highway that is more popularly known as the “Bitukang Manok”. That literally translates to “chicken innards or intestines”, which is how many travellers would describe the alignment of this section of the national highway network. We decided to take the “old zigzag road” instead of the “new diversion road” since the latter is known to be already congested especially as trucks and buses take this road instead of the zigzag.

Expectedly, the road offered all kinds of curves and grades throughout. I was glad to see relatively new barriers already installed or constructed along the entire length of Bitukang Manok.

Here is a particularly challenging section combining sharp hairpin curves with steep inclines.

We caught up with this rider along a relatively straight and level segment of the road

There are flagmen strategically deployed along the most difficult parts of the road including this one that might lead inexperienced or erring drivers to drive/ride straight off a cliff.

Here’s another hairpin curve; this time on the way down from the mountain.

The final turn of the road before it merged with the diversion road

Sign at the other end of the road showing travellers the divergence of the national highway into the “old zigzag road” and the “new diversion road”. Notice the platoon of southbound trucks at right. 

I remember Bitukang Manok as a dreaded section among travellers before not just from the safety viewpoint but also because many can get sick (e.g., motion sickness that may result into throwing up) going through the section especially if the driver is not as smooth in manoeuvring the vehicle through the zigzags. There were also long distance bicycle races before where the Bitukang Manok featured as the main challenge to the best cyclists and the winner of that leg of the race was pronounced as “king of the mountain”.

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.

Some updates on C-6

I have not used Circumferential Road 6 in a while. And so a couple of weeks ago, I was happy to see that work has resumed on the sections at Lupang Arenda in Taytay, Rizal, which is also known as Sampaguita Street. Here are some photos of the wide C-6 section. I guess there’s an opportunity here to have service roads on either side of the highway  in order to manage/control local traffic. C-6, after all, is a highway and is designed for typical national highway speeds (i.e., 60 kph). The adjacent land use, however, requires slower traffic mainly due to safety concerns.

Cordoned-off section where a contractor is preparing the sub-base prior to placing the steel reinforcement and pouring concrete

Another photo of the section showing form works for the slab. Note the parked vehicles along the side on the left.

Some sections are already flooded from the heavy rains

The completed section towards Nagpayong, Pasig is a wide 4 lanes. At left is a nice view of the Laguna de Bai.

Section to Nagpayong near the boundary of Taytay, Rizal and Pasig City.

That’s a habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) terminal on the left and in front of a parked jeepney.

Two very important things about C-6 though. One concerns the Barkadahan Bridge over the Manggahan Floodway, which is too narrow for the traffic that cross it. There’s a new bridge beside it that seems to be taking too long to build. And then there’s the long stretch from Nagpayong, Pasig to Lower Bicutan, Taguig which remain in bad condition. The new section along the lakeside is already usable for Pasig-bound traffic but needs to be allowed to carry two-way traffic for the older section to be rehabilitated. C-6 is becoming a major alternative route for a lot of travelers from Rizal to and from Makati and Taguig (esp. BGC). It needs to be improved immediately as it can help decongest the Ortigas Ave. – C5 route that most Rizalenos use to go to their workplaces.

Hazardous worksites along Sumulong Highway

There are hazardous worksites along Sumulong Highway. These are related to current drainage works and construction of pedestrian facilities (sidewalks) along the highway. Travelers can see the steel reinforcing bars (rebars) sticking out and posing risks to road users. Following are some photos we took as we traversed the stretch near La Montana, Palos Verdes and Cavaliers Village.

img_3872Highway drainage works along Sumulong Highway

img_3873Steel reinforcing bars sticking out of the drainage works along the Masinag-bound side of Sumulong Highway.

img_3878More hazardous worksites

img_3879Unmanned and unfinished worksite along Sumulong Highway. Pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists seem unfazed by the hazard posed by the rebars.

These pose dangers to most road users and especially motorcyclists and cyclists who may experience a spill that can lead to riders being impaled by the rebars. The contractor definitely is violating safety codes in as far as construction sites are concerned and these are in plain view of the public. The DPWH as well as the local government of Antipolo City should act immediately and decisively in order to prevent untoward incidents concerning such worksites. There should be measures such as physical barriers that would protect road users against such hazards. There are currently none.