Luzon Spine Expressway: A road network eyed to shorten travel time between La Union and Bicol to 9 hours

Published January 27, 2021, 7:01 PM

by Betheena Unite

From the existing 382 kilometers of expressways, the road network within Luzon is expected to improve to 905 kilometers as more than 20 highways and expressways are under way.

This set of highways and expressways is called the Luzon Spine Expressway Network. It is a P633-billion priority program of the government under its Build, Build, Build infrastructure plan.  

When the entire network is realized, the 20-hour travel between Ilocos and Bicol will be drastically reduced to only nine hours.

Aside from improving the entire Luzon road network and shortening the travel time within the island, it also aims to finally address the decades-long bottleneck in Metro Manila, which caused the country billions of losses every day.

Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, the main man in the implementation of the Build, Build, Build program, said chronic traffic congestion along urban roads causes various problems such as increase of travel time or losses of valuable time of people, aggravated roadside environment including air pollution, noise, and vibration, among others.

“Based on the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) study, the Philippines losses P3.5 billion a day due to traffic congestion in Metro Manila,” Villar said.

The secretary added that the economic cost of transportation refers to the vehicle operating cost and time cost spent by drivers and passengers along the road network in Metro Manila, not economic loss nor congestion loss, and does not reflect any assessment of specific transport policy nor policy measures.

“The government will continue to implement the master plan on highway network development to address traffic congestions along vital road networks in the country particularly in highly urbanized areas,” he said.

The High Standard Highway (HSH) Network Development Masterplan will be updated by expanding the coverage from the sphere of 200 kilometer to 300 kilometer radius around Metro Manila,” Villar furthered.

It has been said before that the only way to decongest Metro Manila is to open up its peripherals and provide other options than to take the overly-congested major thoroughfares in the metropolis.

A road design network that is crucial to make the nine-hour dream travel time across Luzon possible is the Luzon Spine Expressway Network, the secretary said.

“Expanding the expressway network will hasten the economic development of regional cities to avoid over-concentration of socio-economic activities in Metro Manila and eventually diminish the economic disparities across the country,” he added.

Of the 23 expressways and highways implemented within the Luzon Spine Network, seven have been fully completed and substantially completed, reflecting around 109 kilometers of road delivered.

The 18.83-kilometer Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 is the most recently completed elevated expressway for the network. This elevated expressway alone can take away 55,000 vehicles from major roads in Metro Manila like overly-congested Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA), Quezon Ave., Araneta Ave., Nagtahan and Quirino Ave.

It was built to connect the South Luzon Expressway and North Luzon Expressway under a P44.8-billion fund and is expected to open to the public by December.  

With the completion of the elevated expressway, travel time from Buendia to Balintawak will be reduced from two hours to 15-20 minutes.

The 5.58-kiolmeter NLEX Harbor Link’s Segment 10 and 2.60-kilometer C3-R10 Section are among the first key projects to be completed. These segments were delivered in 2019 and 2020, connecting the Mc Arthur Highway and C-3.

Travel time from Valenzuela City to C-3 in Caloocan City was reduced from more than an hour to five minutes and is now benefiting 20,000 motorists per day. The segmentswere implemented under a P15.55-billion allocation.

Another segment of the mega expressway is the 8.35-kilometer NLEX Harbor Link, Segment 8.2 which is projected to start in 2021 to 2024. It is currently under road right-of-way acquisition stage. When constructed, it will reduce travel time from Mindanao Avenue to Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City from 45 minutes to 10 minutes.

The 14.85-kilometer NAIA Expressway, Phase II was completed in 2017 with a spending of P18.07 billion. It starts from the end point of NAIA Expressway Phase I to PAGCOR Entertainment City, providing access to NAIA Terminals 1, 2 and 3 as well as an interface with the Skyway and Cavitex. Travel time between Skyway and Terminal 1 was reduced from 24 minutes to only eight minutes.

Outside Metro Manila, the 27.31-kilometer Urdaneta City -Rosario, La Union Section of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway was completed under a P5.79-billion fund. It opened to traffic in July this year.

This section is a vital part of the entire 89.21-kilometer Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway which aims to reduce travel time between Tarlac City and Rosario, La Union from 3.5 hours to only an hour and will benefit 20,000 travelers daily.

The 9.96-kilometer Arterial (Plaridel) By-Pass Road, Phase II was completed in 2018 after four years of implementation. It costs P3.34 billion.

Another phase of the road network is also ongoing and is expected to be completed by 2023. It involves the widening of the 24.61 km bypass road from two lanes to four lanes including 10 bridges (1,439.72 l.m.), drainage facilities and slope stabilization works.

It will reduce average travel time between Burol, Balagtas and Maasim, San Rafael in Bulacan from 69 minutes to 24 minutes and is expected to benefit 15,000 motorists per day.

Other under way projects include the 30-kilometer Central Luzon Link Expressway, CLLEx – Phase I which runs from Tarlac to Cabanatuan is now 90 percent complete or substantially completed. It is expected to be finished by July 2021 after five years of implementation.

Travel time between Tarlac City and Cabanatuan City will be reduced from 70 minutes to 20 minutes and will cater to 11,200 motorists per day. A total of P14.94 billion was spent for the project.

The four-kilometer Alabang-Sucat Skyway Connection and Ramp Extension Project is also under way and is now at 47 percent completion. It is expected to be completed by 2021 under a P10-billion project spending.

The 8-kilometer NLEX-SLEX Connector Road is currently at 11 percent progress. It is implemented under a P23.3-billion fund and is expected to be done by 2022.

The connector will extend the NLEX southward from the end of Segment 10 in C3 Road, Caloocan City to PUP Sta. Mesa, Manila and connecting to the Skyway Stage 3, and mostly traversing along the PNR rail track.  

Travel time from SLEX to NLEX will be reduced from two hours to 20 minutes. It will benefit 35,000 motorists per day.

In the southern part of Luzon, the 7.7-kilometer Manila Cavite Toll Expressway Project, C-5 South Link Expressway, which started construction in 2017 is poised for 2022 completion. However, its Merville to C5/SLEX section was already opened in July 2019.

The 32.66-kilometer Southeast Metro Manila Expressway, C-6 (Phase I) is now under way with its Skyway/FTI to C5/Diego Silang Section at 12 percent progress. This section is expected to be completed by 2022. This expressway will cover Skyway/FTI in Taguig City to Batasan Complex in Quezon City.  

It will reduce travel time from Bicutan to Batasan from 1 hour 50 minutes to 26 minutes and will benefit around 42,477 to 88,338 motorists per day.

The Cavite-Laguna Expressway, a 45.29-kilometer expressway implemented under P35.68-billionn fund, is expected to be delivered by 2022. Its Laguna Segment is already at 78 percent completion.

This aims to connect CAVITEX in Kawit, Cavite and SLEX-Mamplasan interchange in Biñan, Laguna, reducing travel time between CAVITEX and SLEX from one hour and 30 minutes to 45 minutes.

Construction of the South Luzon Expressway-Toll Road 4 Project is also under way. It is a 66.74-kilometer toll road from Sto. Tomas, Batangas to Tayabas/Lucena City, Quezon.

It aims to cut travel time from Sto. Tomas, Batangas to Lucena, Quezon from four hours to only an hour and will benefit 17,000 travelers per day. It is projected to be completed by 2022 under a P13.10-billion fund.

The Camarines Sur Expressway, a 15.21-kilometer, 4-lane highway connecting the municipalities of San Fernando and Pili in the province of Camarines Sur, is now at 13 percent progress rate. When completed it will cut travel time from 51 minutes to 11 minutes.

A total of P9.235 billion will be spent for the project which started in November 2018 and will continue beyond 2022.

Six road projects that will complete the Luzon Spine are now either awaiting approval or under feasibility study.

The 59.4-kilometer TPLEX Extension from Rosario to San Juan, La Union is a four-lane toll road that will start from the last exit of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) in Rosario, La Union and will terminate at San Juan, La Union. It will cost P24.10 billion and is currently awaiting green light from NEDA.

The 127-kilometer North Eastern Luzon Expressway is currently under feasibility study while the 35.7-kilometer Central Luzon Link Expressway, Phase II, that covers Cabanatuan and San Jose, Nueva Ecija is up for feasibility study.

Also awaiting approval is the proposed 19-kilometer North Luzon East Expressway, NLEE (La Mesa Parkways Project) that would cost P7.8 billion.

The C3 Missing Link Project (Southern Segment is also part of the Build, Build, Build program’s pipeline. It is a 5.7-kilometer segment that would cost P10.5 billion.

The 50.43-kilometer Cavite-Tagaytay-Batangas Expressway (CTBEX), a tollway road traversing mostly the rural areas of Silang, Tagaytay, Amadeo, Mendez, Alfonso, and Magallanes, all in the Cavite province, and Nasugbu in Batangas is also waiting for approval. It has a P25.24 billion project cost.

The Quezon-Bicol Expressway, which is also pending approval for for construction, is a  220-kilometer expressway from Tayabas, Quezon to San Fernando, Camarines Sur. Once completed, travel time will be reduced by two hours.

Secretary Villar also revealed that “a masterplan study on proposed tunnel projects will be developed to address constraints on connectivity due to the geographic profile of the country.”

He also stressed that by 2022, the Philippines “will be a lot different.”

“That I can guarantee and if you can look at the pipeline that we have that’s evidence that definitely there’ll be a different country than what we came in,” he said.