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Sparing the trees

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) embarked on a major road widening project in the last administration. This continues today. One of the issues raised then was the cutting down of many trees along the roadside to give way to one additional lane along each direction of national roads. While conservationists and environmentalists were not successful in provinces like Tarlac where old camachile trees were cut down, the case in Pangasinan seems a bit more positive. Traffic along rural highways such as the Urdaneta-Calasiao-Dagupan Road can become heavy but not so much so that it requires two additional lanes to the original two. As such, while the shoulders can be paved as part of the lane widening program of the DPWH, the trees can actually be spared. I think the DPWH and the LGUs would just need to mark the trees to make them very visible at night time or when visibility is low along the highway.

dagupan-calasiao-urdanetaBig old trees, mostly mango trees line up the Urdaneta-Calasiao-Dagupan Highway along the newly paved lane that used to be a shoulder of this highway. These huge trees are fruit bearing and so one can imagine that part of the loss if these were to be cut down were the tons of mangoes that many people could benefit from.

img_0908Sections of the additional lanes are generally not usable for general traffic and revert to their previous use as parking spaces. These paved sections now also are useful as ‘solar driers’. Shown in the photo above is an example where grains of rice (palay) are laid out direct on the concrete pavement for natural drying under the sun. People (staff of the owners) guard these against animals, wayward motorists and possibly thieves. These staff will gather the grains when there is impending rains or when the day’s almost over to dry another day.

I wanted to take more photos of the highway but was seated at the back of our van so I had to settle for a few select shots. The second photo above is care of a colleague who sat in front and took a few shots himself.

Dang Bakal road widening in Antipolo

We go to church at the Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary along Daang Bakal in Antipolo City. Quite obvious is the current road widening project being implemented along Daang Bakal. While the improvement of the road was welcome, my opinion is that  widening the 2-lane road to 4 lanes was not necessary given the traffic in the area served by the subject section (basically traffic generated by the parish and the exclusive subdivisions along the road). For one the section being widened from the intersection with the Antipolo Circumferential Road leads to a dead-end (i.e,, the gate of an exclusive subdivision). And so, traffic is generally very light along this road section

Are there plans to revive the original right of way of the old railway line but in the form of a road connecting Hinulugang Taktak to Ortigas Avenue via Valley Golf? If not, then the road widening of Daang Bakal is unnecessary. Even if the justification were for cyclists, I would argue that perhaps you only needed to have paved shoulders that need not have the same width as the carriageway lane. Following are photos of Daang Bakal featuring the road widening project.

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From the photos, it is clear that a lot of trees have been cut in order to make space for the additional lanes for the road. While most of these trees are too close to the original carriageway, there were many that I felt didn’t need to be cut if a narrow shoulder was deemed sufficient for the road. Traffic in the photos are typical peak period traffic on a Sunday when the road carries the most traffic in a day due mainly to churchgoers.

Road widening along Sumulong Highway

Sumulong Highway is the main road connecting Antipolo City with Marikina City and ultimately to Cainta, Pasig and Quezon City via Marcos Highway. It is basically a 4-lane, 2-way undivided road with several sections that have 3 lanes total probably due to ROW acquisition issues when the highway was widened from the original 2-lane road. I came back from a trip recently to find road works along my commute and took some photos of what would definitely be an improvement to the highway. The uneven number of lanes along several sections of Sumulong has led to road crashes and surely many near misses among motorists and cyclists using the highway. There is also a need to provide space for pedestrians and others on foot considering the highway is one of the major routes to the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage – a major pilgrimage site for Filipinos.

IMG11485-20150515-0729Road widening for an additional lane along the inbound lane approaching Sumulong’s intersection with Olalia Road
IMG11486-20150515-0730Construction along the inbound direction of Sumulong Highway include drainage works aside from the construction of an additional lane to make the number of lanes even (2 per direction). At present, there are 2 lanes along the outbound direction and a single lane (shown clearly in the photo) along the inbound lane. The section shown is near the Garden of Gethsemane and Palos Verdes subdivision.

IMG11480-20150514-0729Completed lane, drainage and sidewalk along the outbound direction of Sumulong Highway right after Metro View subdivision.

IMG11482-20150514-0730Widening along the outbound direction between Metro View and Valley Golf includes drainage works. There will be a sidewalk on top of the drainage that should enhance safety for walking/trekking.

IMG11481-20150514-0730There are many informal settlers as well as formal ones encroaching on the RROW. Part of the project is to remove these and other obstructions. I just hope that the sidewalks and the curbside lane will remain clear of obstructions.

The completion of the road widening project is expected to improve the flow of traffic along Sumulong Highway as there will be a continuous 2 lanes available along either direction for safe and effective passing. The additional lane also means public transport may stop along the roadside without blocking through traffic. Trucks and slow moving vehicles (tricycles?) may also be required to take a designated lane. Moreover, since there is a significant volume of bicycle users along Sumulong Highway, there will be enough safe space for them to travel. The current volume of motorised vehicle traffic along the highway requires only 1 lane per direction (2 lanes total) and these are the innermost lanes of the road. Traffic slows down usually because of trucks or tricycle operations/maneuvers. In theory, the 2 outer lanes can be used only for overtaking, stopping and cycling. These should be clear of parked vehicles particularly along areas where there are communities and businesses (e.g., vulcanising, auto repair shops, etc.) along the roadside.