Thursday, March 22, 2012

Balagtas interchange opening hailed, Sta. Rita toll plaza decongested

PLARIDEL, Bulacan—Every morning, spouses Bernardo and Tess Vicente rushes to get to their work places in Quezon City from their house at Rocka Village at Barangay Tabang here.

This is to avoid usual traffic jam that clog the Cagayan Valley Road (CVR) from the Plaridel public market to the Sta. Rita toll Plaza along the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).

At night, the same traffic greets them as they go home.

But not on the night of March 20, or at least six hours after the inauguration of the Balagtas Interchange and the subsequent opening of the 6.87 kilometer Plaridel By-pass road which is part of the still to be completed 24.61 kilometer arterial road project that will link the NLEX to Barangay Maasim in San Rafael town, just west of the boundary of San Rafael and San Ildefonso towns.

“Maluwag na, mabilis pa ang biyahe,” said Bernardo in a text message sent to Business Week.

As an engineer of the Maynilad Water Services Inc., (MWSI), Bernardo said he and his wife Tess, an instructor at the University of the Philippines, hopes that decongestoon of the CVR will continue.

Their hope is the same with the purpose for the construction of the arterial toad project.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said it was meant to reduce travel time to and from eastern Bulacan and Central Luzon NLEX.

He said more travel time will be reduced once the 24.61 kilometers arterial road project that will link the NLEX with the Philippine Japan Friendship Highway or the old Maharlika Highway is completed.

Singson said it will also boost economic activity in eastern Bulacan and Central Luzon.

Based on date released by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the 6.87 kilometer Plaridel by-pass road is under the contract package 1 of the Phase 1 of the project funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency JICA).

The Plaridel by-pass road which straddles Barangay Borol 1st in Balagtas town to Barangay Bulihan in Plaridel town was completed last November 25 amounted to P1.570-Billion.  It has one 60-meter bridge and 2.40-kilometer access road.

The 7.75-kilometer contract package II of the project which is also under the Phase I will extend the contract package I to Bustos town.  Jica is readying P543.326-Million of the said project.

Singson said that it is projected to be completed by next year, but contractors said it will be completed by June this year.

He said that he is looking forward for the early implementation of the contract package III and IV under phase II covering a total of 9.86 kilometers from Bustos to Barangay Maasim in San Rafael town.

The said segment of the project will also be bankrolled  by a loan from JICA.

For his part, Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Ramoncito Fernandez said the Plaridel Bypass road and the Balagtas Interchange is a good manifestation of public-private partnership (PPP).

“In this PPP, the government provided the road infrastructure while the Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC) will operate and maintain it as the country’s newest tollway,” he said.

The MNTC installed the fixed and non-fixed equipment necessary for an efficient tollway system.

Rodrigo Franco, president and CEO of the MNTC said they allocated a total of P109-M for the said equipment, plus P22-M for operation and maintenance of the Balagtas interchange and portion of the by-pass road.

With regards to toll fee, Edmundo Reyes, the executive director of the Toll Regulatory Board said they approved its collection at the Balagtas interchange.

Reyes said that toll fees to be collected will be based on existing per kilometer collection of the Traffic Management Corporation, the operator of the NLEX. 

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