To dream the impossible dream: Connecting NLEX to SLEX in 30 minutes

BY

NIGHT OWL

Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

In 2016 — when we started Build, Build, Build, critics said that the EDSA Decongestion Program is mathematically impossible, that it cannot be done, that President Rodrigo Duterte was over promising, and that Google Maps does not support such assertion. They failed to see the bigger picture — the possibility of a 90-year-old EDSA back to its original 1930 form, a future where Filipinos do not have to debate about Metro Manila’s “true midpoint” and a reality where in every city in Metro Manila can be accessed within a 20 to 30 minute time frame.

I could not blame them. The odds were not in our favor. I could still remember the first time Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar presented the plan to decongest EDSA, a 23.8-km circumferential highway, which has long exceeded its maximum capacity of 288,000 vehicles a day. At that time, the congestion level was already at 71% — the second worst traffic congestion in the world. In other words, drivers in Metro Manila would need to spend 71% extra travel time in traffic.

This has become a source of frustration. I remember one friend who’d complain about being in a long distance relationship because her boyfriend was living in Quezon City. It would take them four hours to travel for a two hour date. The north and south divide was even becoming more pronounced.

Skyway Stage 3 to open in January 

Since 2016, DPWH has been working on a plan composed of 25 projects that would divert about 200,000 vehicles away from EDSA, C5, and other major thoroughfares.

Drone shot of the Skyway Stage 3

One of the 25 projects under the 132-km EDSA Decongestion Masterplan is the Metro Manila Skyway Skyway Stage 3, an 18- km expressway spanning from Buendia in Makati to Balintawak in Quezon City.  In a few days, the main alignment of the project will be opened to the public. Finally, travel time from North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) will only be 30 minutes.

To reach this stage, however, much had to be done.  Prior to May, 2017 — not even one of 47 National Grid Corporation Poles and 1,312 Meralco poles had been relocated. Site possession for the entire alignment was only at 8.64%. No right of way was acquired for Section 2A and 2B. Section 3 and Section 4 were only at 2.86% and 5.5% respectively.

Current alignment of Harbor Link, Connector, and Skyway.

It was clear that the original alignment had to be revised. In May, 2017, Secretary Villar received a proposal from San Miguel Corporation to realign Section 2B to utilize the San Juan River alignment. This was approved via a Memorandum of Agreement, which was signed on October 25, 2018, to include an interconnection structure between Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 and the NLEX SLEX Connector.

This is the first time in Philippine history that expressways operated by different concessionaires — as in this case, San Miguel Corporation and Metro Pacific — will interconnect.

And who are biggest victors of this arrangement? The Filipino people.

For the first time in decades, Filipinos may opt to bypass EDSA and C5. Soon, Filipinos would be able to travel to any city in Metro Manila within a 20 to 30 minute time frame. In a few more months, we will effectively connect the 16 cities and municipalities of Metro Manila — Caloocan, Las Pinas, Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Manila, Marikina, Muntintinlupa, Navotas, Paranaque, Pasay, Pasig, Pateros, San Juan, Taguig, Quezon City and Valenzuela — seamlessly via a network of high standard highways and bridges.