It’s the first working week of the New Year and many are looking forward to seeing the promise of traffic congestion eased on EDSA, C-5, and other major thoroughfares in Metro Manila fulfilled.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) all have raised expectations of a New Year of faster travel times within Metro Manila.
The main driver of this expectation is the opening of the 18-km Skyway Stage 3, the elevated expresway from Buendia in Makati City to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) in Balintawak in Quezon City.
This seamless link between the NLEX and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) was partially opened to the motoring public, gratis et amore for one month beginning December 29, 2020.
Thank you, Ramon Ang and San Miguel Corporation.
Already, many motorists have taken advantage of the free use of what many describe as an engineering marvel that snakes over rooftops and rivers and between buildings.
Many have posted experiencing the promised shorter inter-metro travel times. Promise fulfilled, indeed.
Earlier press announcements have said that when completed Skyway-3 will decongest EDSA and other major roads, including Quezon Avenue, Araneta Avenue, Nagtahan, Quirino Avenue, by as much as 55,000 vehicles daily and reduce travel time from Buendia to Balintawak from 2 hours to just 15 to 20 minutes.
But it must be said that these first experiences happened during the holidays when fewer motorists were on the road.
According to press reports, a fully completed Skyway-3 features “2×3 lanes from Buendia to Sgt. Rivera corner A. Bonifacio, Quezon City, 2×2 lanes from Sgt. Rivera corner A. Bonifacio to NLEX Balintawak, Quezon City and 2×3 lanes elevated roadway structure that will connect to the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road Project in the vicinity of PUP.”
Northbound, the Skyway-3 has onramps along Buendia, Quezon Avenue and and Balintawak off-ramp.
Southbound, it has an off-ramps on Buendia, an on-ramp on Plaza Dilao, an off-ramp on Quezon Avenue, and an on-ramp at Balintawak.
SMC is targetting June 14 for the full-operation of the Skyway-3.
The first work week of the year when more motorists and commuters are back on the road should provide indications that indeed the Skyway-3 fulfills expectations.
The optimists see the Skyway-3 complementing the NLEX Harbor Link segments already in use, including the elevated section between the new Caloocan Interchange, C3 Road/5th Avenue and the Navotas Interchange which the DPWH touted would also see faster travel times between the NLEX and the Port Area.
When more of the NLEX Harbor Link segments were opened in the middle of last year, DPWH Secretary Mark A. Villar said “the expanded NLEX Harbor Link will certainly boost the government’s traffic decongestion efforts in Metro Manila and other major thoroughfares.”
Villar said the expanded NLEX Harbor Link would also provide an alternative route between Quezon City and Manila.
From the Mindanao Toll Plaza, motorists could reach the Port Area in Manila in about 15 to 20 minutes, he added.
The NLEX Harbor Link, which also has elevated sections, was certainly to beneficial to truckers who now enjoy 24/7 access to the Port Area as there is no truck ban along NLEX.
With both the NLEX Harbor Link and the Skyway-3 providing elevated alternate routes for inter-metro motoring, congestion at ground-level streets is expected to ease.
Of course, motorists should expect to pay for the faster travel times. How much that will be is still up in the air. Here’s hoping it won’t be too high up there.
More trains running
The first work week of 2021 should see commuters benefitting from more train sets running on the completely refreshed tracks and rehabilitated facilities of the MRT-3.
The DOTr reported that 22 trains sets are now running daily on the MRT-3 which last December began running trains at a maximum of 60 km/h.
Two of these train sets are those from Dalian which have been reconfigured, refitted and re-evaluated to allow for safe use on the MRT-3.
With more trains and faster average speeds, commuter should now be benefitting from shorter waiting times at MRT-3 stations.
The DOTr deserves commendation for how it has turned the MRT-3 around from being an inefficient and unreliable light rail transit operation to an efficient and reliable transport mode.
Commuters should also be seeing the new trains of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) in operation sooner than later.
The PNR reports that it is now completing the loading gauge test before undertaking validation runs on the last batch of new trains it ordered from Indonesia.
The PNR received last month the last batch of new trains from Indonesia that consists of 15 passenger coaches and three locomotives.
This completes PNR’s fleet modernization program.