Gonzales shares update on Candaba viaduct project as Holy Week nears

House Deputy Speaker and Pampanga 3rd district Rep. Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales Jr. has been assured that the 6.8-kilometer (km) Candaba viaduct in the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) will be fully opened to traffic in time for Holy Week this April.

Deputy Speaker and Pampanga 3rd district Rep. Aurelio "Dong" Gonzales Jr. (PPAB)

Gonzales received such assurance from officials of the highway's operator, NLEX Corp.

“We will finish retrofitting the southbound lane of the viaduct next month. All lanes of NLEX will be open for Holy Week,” NLEX Corp. Vice president Jennifer Jane Go told an inter-agency consultative meeting held at the House of Representatives on Monday, Feb. 27.

Gonzales, who presided over the meeting, replied: "That’s good news to my constituents and my kabalen in Pampanga, and to thousands of motorists who traditionally go to tourism and vacation sites in northern Luzon throughout the Lenten period, and to those from the north who will drive to Metro Manila and southern Luzon."

As was the case in the past, he said NLEX would be congested with vehicles due to the Holy Week exodus even with all lanes passable.

Holy Week will run from April 3 to 9.

For months now, the expressway operator-concessionaire has been retrofitting the Candaba viaduct. To give way to the repairs, one southbound lane is closed, while one lane on the northbound side serves as a counterflow lane for southbound vehicles.

During the meeting, NLEX Corp. officials led by Senior Vice President Romulo Quimbo said the construction of the third Candaba viaduct would begin in May and would be completed by December 2024.

He said the third bridge would be built in between the two current long southbound and northbound spans. NLEX Corp. has already awarded the contract for the additional bridge to international contractor Leighton Asia.

Gonzales, who is an engineer, said a new viaduct or a new highway “is really needed because the present infrastructure has deteriorated due to age, constant use and heavy load".

The expressway was built during the administration of the late former president Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the House leader noted.

He said he has informed curent President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. of the expressway’s operator’s decision to build a third bridge and “He was elated to hear about it.”