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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.

Reservoir roads – Part 2

Previously, I posted about the reservoir roads we crossed when we traveled to Baler, Aurora last April 2019. It’s been a while since that post so before I forget, here are more photos of those reservoir roads taken during our return trip from Baler.

The two lane highway becomes a single lane section at the Diayo River Reservoir road

A view of the fish pens at the Diayo River reservoir

Pristine waters with the Sierra Madre mountain range in the background

Approaching the end of the Diayo reservoir road

There is a checkpoint at the 2-lane section bridging the Diayo reservoir road with the Canili River reservoir road

Vehicles entering the Canili reservoir road – this again is a one-lane, one-way section where vehicles from either direction would have to give way to either.

Shoulder and fish pens 

Waters of the Canili River Reservoir with the Sierra Madre mountains in the background

Fishermen on a banca – they looked like they were inspecting their fish pens

 

Reservoir roads – Part 1

I remember posting about “submersible bridges”, dike roads and the like. There were two roads atop 2 dams that were part of 2 reservoirs in : the Canili River Reservoir and the Diayo River Reservoir, which are dwarfed by the much larger Pantabangan reservoir and dam nearby. These two reservoirs are at the border of Nueva Vizcaya (Alfonso Castaneda) and Isabela (Maria Aurora), which also happens to be the border of Regions 2 and 3 (Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon, respectively). Here are photos of the roads atop the dams that are part of the Pantabangan-Baler Road.

Vehicles may only pass a single lane with shoulders on either side of the lane. And so there are people posted at either ends of the sections to manage the one-way traffic.

The reservoir is visible on the left side of the photo

Forested area and ravine on the right side

Some fish pens on the Canili reservoir side

A view of the east end of the Canili reservoir road where westbound vehicles await their turn to traverse the section.

The eastern end of the Canili reservoir road

There’s a short two-lane segment between the Canili and Diayo reservoir roads

Traveling along the Diayo reservoir road

Fish pens at the Diayo Reservoir

The other side of the dam

The eastern end on the Diayo reservoir road where the single lane road transitions into a 2-lane road.

More photos in Part 2…soon.

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.

Newly opened sections of C-6

I have been wanting to post these photos of the newer sections of Circumferential Road 6. The section was constructed  months ago and is part of a project that seeks to widen the current stretch of C-6 from Taguig (Lower Bicutan) to Pasig (Napindan) from the old 2-lane, 2-way road into a 4-lane, divided road. The new section opened to general traffic along the southbound side (to Taytay) and has improved traffic along the section that’s provided people from Rizal an alternative route to Makati and BGC through Taguig. Only, light vehicles are allowed along the new section and trucks and other heavy vehicles take the old road, which is quite battered by the traffic. Only one lane is currently available as there are barriers along the section as shown in the following photos. Traveling along the section also afford people a nice view of the Laguna de Bay to the right.

Pinagmisahan Street, Antipolo City

A couple of weeks ago, traffic had to be rerouted from a section of the city’s Circumferential Road (also known as the Sen. Lorenzo Sumulong Memorial Circle) between the intersection with Taktak Road and Pinagmisahan Street to Pinagmisahan Street. This was due to the preventive maintenance work that had to be done to the pavement. As such travelers including myself had to use Pinagmisahan to travel between Sumulong Highway and Ortigas Ave. Extension. It was not my first time along Pinagmisahan but it was my first to traverse the road from end to end. Following are photos showing sections of Pinagmisahan Street from the Clinica Antipolo end to the Daang Bakal end (i.e., northbound).

IMG_1013Pinagmisahan Street on the left with ‘No Entry’ signs for the Circumferential Road section being maintained.

IMG_1014On a typical weekday, there are many school service vehicles parked along the road. Many of these are for the Montessori school across from Clinica Antipolo, which does not have sufficient parking for vehicles it attracts.

IMG_1015Pinagmisahan used to be a narrow 2-lane road. It has been expanded recently into a 4-lane road with Portland Cement Concrete Pavement (PCCP).

IMG_1016While the expansion included the construction of sidewalks, many electric posts remain in their original positions and pose safety hazards to motorists.

IMG_1017White Cross, which is a popular destination during the Lenten Season and especially during the Holy Week is accessible via this road.

IMG_1018There appears to be many informal settlers living in communities along the road. They have encroached on the RROW and hamper the completion of the expansion of the road.

IMG_1019I think this part of the road is practically the highest in terms of elevation. There should be a good view of the surrounding areas including the city center and Hinulugang Taktak from this area.

IMG_1020Another section of Pinagmisahan showing informal settlers

IMG_1021Curved downward section towards Daang Bakal and Taktak Road – the fence on the left is for Fairmont Subdivision.

IMG_1022Straight section approaching Daang Bakal

IMG_1023Approach to intersection with Daang Bakal – the other lanes of the road is used as parking for visitors of Hinulugang Taktak

IMG_1024Daang Bakal with Hinulugang Taktak on the left

I’m featuring Pinagmisahan here as I thought its timely given a lot of people will be using it this Holy Week to go to White Cross, which has life-size images for the Stations of the Cross.

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.

On logistics in the Philippines

I am not a logistics expert and will not pretend to be one. I have, however, been involved in several projects that included logistics as a major study component. These include a nationwide study on inter-regional passenger and freight flow and another for freight forwarders affected by vehicle restraint policies in Metro Manila.  A more recent engagement has allowed me to take a look at logistics in the country from other perspectives including that of national agencies seeking to improve goods movement in the country and development agencies that have committed to help the country to do just that. There are local issues and there are regional ones. The regional ones often involve the need for infrastructure such as maritime ports and airports, highways and bridges, and other facilities such as those for storage and refrigeration.

For an archipelago like the Philippines, logistics is a bit more challenging than in countries whose territories are not separated by bodies of water. There is no lack for good practices though as there are other archipelagos that could provide good examples for connecting the islands such as Japan and the United Kingdom. Nearby, we share similar challenges with Indonesia and to a certain extent Malaysia. Of course, availability of resources is always an issue and particularly for the prioritization of infrastructure to be constructed aside from those that need to be maintained. The DOTC along with its attached agencies like the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) are in the frontline when it comes to airports and ports planning, development, and maintenance are concerned. However, the DPWH plays a vital role for highways and bridges and the connections for these ports and airports including what is termed as “last-mile” connectivity that is often passed on as a responsibility of local governments. This is likely due to local roads often providing the connection between national roads (under the DPWH) and ports and airports. It is a good thing that the current DPWH has committed to a convergence program regarding national and local roads that has benefited a lot of sectors and industries like tourism and agriculture.

Rail transport is not mentioned here because there is practically none even for what remains of the once relatively extensive PNR main lines. The local issues are not simpler and can be a bit more complicated than the regional ones. The complications are usually due to more petty circumstances that may involve politics and local power plays. The basic ingredients though are related to traffic congestion and the damage to roads and bridges attributed to trucks.

Many cities and municipalities have implemented truck bans along their major roads. These are usually one or two routes in the smaller cities and towns, usually passing through the “bayan,” “poblacion” or central business district (CBD). These roads are usually national roads (e.g., McArthur Highway and the Pan Philippine Highway pass through many towns). As such, there are cases where bypass roads are constructed to alleviate congestion along these roads as well as to try to preserve the pavements in the town proper. Such traffic schemes targeting heavy vehicles are not new and are also a way to address the issue on overloading that is common in trucking in the Philippines. The bypass roads, however, generally invite development and unplanned development have often made these alternate routes more congested than the original ones.

Manila did a “power play” recently by implementing a more aggressive truck ban. This led to more severe congestion around the Port of Manila and a lot of delays that have cost a lot of money in part due to the limited alternative routes in the city and most roads are already constricted. The costs have repercussions on the economy in general as the movement of goods are affected by the impasse in Manila. Whether this was for more political or practical reasons is difficult to say because the mayor and vice mayor have invoked the very common issues of traffic congestion, road safety and pavement maintenance that got the attention, sentiment and agreement of a lot of people. Many of these people though do not understand the impacts of inefficient goods movement and likely are concerned only about passenger transportation.

More recently, a lot of containers were shipped from the Port of Manila to Subic. These are supposedly “overstaying” shipments or those that have not been claimed for a long time or have some issues regarding their release. This should ease congestion somehow but there remain the problems of shipping or logistics companies regarding freight transport in general that needs to be addressed. Both Subic and Batangas ports have been mentioned in many formal studies over the past few years including a more recent one supported by JICA. Still, there is a lot of hesitation if not confusion or uncertainty on how to go about with shifting goods movement to these ports, which are regarded to be underutilized. There are good roads connecting these ports with cities and towns but these might not be enough in the long run.

Perhaps there is a need to reconsider regional rail transport again especially for the islands of Luzon and Mindanao where long distance rail may have a tremendous impact for transporting goods over long distances. Of course, there are also issues pertaining to other ports and airports in the country including those in Mindanao (e.g., Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Phividec, Gen. Santos, etc.) and Visayas (e.g., Cebu, Iloilo, Tacloban, etc.). The RORO ports are among those that need attention as they are directly involve road transport aside from the ferries that carry them over the waters. These nautical highways are vital for goods movement around the country and require both national agencies and local governments cooperating for these facilities and services to function efficiently.

Food for thought – a few articles on transport and traffic

This will just be a quick post for now and I just wanted to share a few recent articles on transport and traffic from a favourite magazine – Wired:

What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse

Why We’re Sad the Best Airport in the World Is Getting Even Better

The Hidden Genius and Influence of the Traffic Light

These are very well written, easy to understand articles on things we encounter everyday (traffic congestion, traffic signals at intersections) and when we travel long distance (airports). They show different perspectives of things we take for granted or assume we understand. An example of the latter includes notions that road widening or road construction will solve traffic congestion problems. Much of what goes around regarding road widening or road construction as solutions do not account for induced demand, which is basically additional traffic generated or encouraged by wider or new roads. The second article talks about Changi Airport, arguably the best in the world, and the high tech approaches they have employed or will employ in order to ensure efficient operations there. Such tools, I think, should be used in our airports especially NAIA where the long standing excuse is the limitations of the runway(s) and the airport terminals. Certainly, there are other issues that need to be addressed and going high tech and employing sophisticated methods for airport operations should alleviate problems until we ultimately build a new airport elsewhere. The third article takes a look into behaviour and mentions a “social contract” we have agreed to in order to reduce mayhem in our roads. This “social contract” as well as others related to it should be revisited and understood as they are very much a part of how we behave when we travel and have a significant effect on others around us.

IMG08800-20140617-1521Traffic congestion and traffic signals along the 4-lane C.P. Garcia Avenue in UP Diliman

 

 

Daang Bakal

The right of way for the old railroad line going up to Antipolo is still there and is now a regular road. Daang Bakal rises from what is now Valley Golf Subdivision (Celso Tuazon Ave. and Taktak Drive) in Cainta, Rizal through Victoria Valley Subdivision (Taktak Drive), Fairmount Hills Subdivision and Hinulugang Taktak (Daang Bakal though often referred to as Taktak Road, which is actually a different road and on the other side of the river), and until part of the Sumulong Memorial Circle in the vicinity of the Antipolo Church (Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage).  I took a few photos of Daang Bakal on our way to the Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for Palm Sunday Mass. The photos have been modified as I took it at dusk. The originals were quite dark so I adjusted the brightness. Still, I can only imagine now how this route could have looked like back in the day when the Manila Rail Road line passed through this area. It could have been one of the most scenic rides as it is still a scenic route today.

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At right in the photos is a fenced property designating the Hinulugang Taktak National Park. Hinulugang Taktak refers to the water falls that used to be one of the more popular destinations in Antipolo. There is actually a popular folk song inviting people to come to Antipolo (“Tayo na sa Antipolo at doon maligo tayo…”) to enjoy the falls. The falls have deteriorated through the years as it has been affected mainly by the settlements around it. There seems to be an effort to rehabilitate the area but it is still closed to the public. The road though is in excellent condition and has low motor traffic volumes. It is popular among cyclists as well as joggers. This Holy Week, the area should have a lot of visitors because of the Parish church in the area, which has an impressive architecture and gardens. The church is perfect for those doing Visita Iglesia or perhaps people just wanting to go to a quiet place for some meditation and prayer.