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Edsa reblocking: What it means

TRAFFIC GRIDLOCK ON EDSA Traffic flow on Edsa has worsened as the number of vehicles using it continually grows every year. (Inset)Workers repair a section of the highway at daytime, blocking traffic. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ/ALEXIS CORPUZ

Knowing when workers repair sections of the the 23-kilometer Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (Edsa) will allow commuters to avoid getting caught in horrendous traffic jams.

Closing just a lane slows down the flow of vehicles along the country’s busiest thoroughfare, sending tempers flaring and causing vehicles to needlessly burn fuel. The highway stretches from Monumento in Caloocan City to Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City.

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The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) deferred last year the P3.7-billion rehabilitation of Edsa amid fears of traffic gridlock. Rightly so because repairing long stretches of the highway in one go would have turned Edsa into a massive parking lot.

Instead of the massive repair work, the DPWH office in the National Capital Region (NCR) resumed the weekend reblockings on parts of the former Highway 54.

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Reynaldo Tagudando, DPWH-NCR director, said the department had to “make do with the piecemeal repairs, which are part of the agency’s routine maintenance of Edsa.”

Sections needing repairs

“We had identified 85,051 square meters of deteriorated road space that really needed immediate repairs,” he said. He was referring to northbound sections of the highway before the Guadalupe Bridge, Buendia and the corner of McKinley Road in Makati City, and the area fronting Camp Crame and portions of Cubao in Quezon City.

So far, the private contractors hired by the agency to do the concrete reblockings have finished working on 57,418 sq m.

P230-million project

Under the P230-million reblocking project. The DPWH is targeting the remaining 27,633 sq m by April 21.

That is, “if the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) approves all our proposed weekend work activities. If not, the roadworks will spill over to May or June,” Tagudando said.

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He said: “It’s really beyond our control. Had the MMDA given our proposed work schedules of up to 10 road sections per weekend, we should have completed the reblocking project last December.”

“However, we’re normally allowed to work on only three to four, sometimes five locations along Edsa every weekend,” he lamented.

Tagudando pointed out that last weekend (March 28-30) alone, the DPWH asked permission to work on 6,000-plus sq m, but we’re only given 3,000 sq m.

“This weekend, our target is 6,700 sq m, then another 6,700 sq m the following weekend, all of which are subject to MMDA approval.

Holy Week repairs

“Earlier, they OK’d our request to do road repairs during the entire Holy Week. We had agreed on total closure of, say, the northbound lane on a particular day and then the southbound lane the next day. Now, it’s different. The lanes should be open,” he said.

There was “only one time when all our 10 proposed roadworks were approved by the MMDA. That was the long weekend (of Oct. 26 to 29) when we did the so-called “mega reblockings” along the entire stretch of Edsa,” he said.

He noted that as early as last year, the DPWH “already had an approved permit to conduct the road repairs. But the approval of the actual weekend roadworks is given only every Friday morning.” The reblockings start at 10 p.m. Friday and end at 5 a.m. Monday.

A check with the DPWH-NCR’s maintenance division show that as of March 25, only the reblocking of the northbound lanes of the Roxas Boulevard-Magallanes and the Balintawak-Monumento sections, as well as the southbound lanes of the North Avenue-Balintawak and Balintawak-Monumento sections, were “100-percent complete.”

Completion rates

Completion rates of other road sections:

Northbound direction: Magallanes-Guadalupe, 13.5 percent; Guadalupe-Julia Vargas Avenue, 52.5 percent; Julia Vargas Avenue-V.V. Soliven, zero percent; V.V. Soliven-Quezon Avenue, 39 percent; Quezon Avenue-North Avenue, zero percent; and North Avenue-Balintawak, 91 percent.

Southbound direction: Magallanes-Roxas Boulevard, 58 percent; Guadalupe-Magallanes, 19 percent; Julia Vargas Avenue-Guadalupe, 60 percent; V.V. Soliven-Julia Vargas Avenue, zero percent; Quezon Avenue-V.V. Soliven, 59 percent; and North Avenue-Quezon Avenue, zero percent.

Asked about the lifetime of a reblocked road space, he said “five years, at least …. It does not require any maintenance during the period.”

With the weekend reblockings, the Edsa road quality has “improved considerably,” the DPWH said.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, “it’s probably a 6 now,” said Reynaldo Rosario, chief of the DPWH-NCR maintenance division.

Tagudando acknowledged that Edsa was “still not as smooth as the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx). But it’s definitely going in that direction.”

“That will be a reality when the asphalt overlay and related works in the Edsa rehabilitation project are finally done,” he said.

Quality of PH roads

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, the Philippines’ global ranking in terms of quality of roads improved from 114th in 2010-2011 to 87th in 2012-2013. Also, the country’s road index quality went up from 2.8 to 3.4, which put it at par with Indonesia.

The Philippines is targeting to be in the 4 to 5 territory by 2016.

In January 2013, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson told reporters that Edsa becoming as “smooth” as the NLEx and SLEx could be a reality in two years.

“We only have 2013 and 2014 to complete the improvements on Edsa,” Singson said. He noted that the highway had been practically neglected by previous administrations …. Puro patsing-patsing ang ginagawa riyan (All that was done was patching the damaged sections). Yet, we can have smoothness that can equal that of both NLEx and SLEx,” he said.

According to the DPWH chief, Edsa is “proof that Philippine road standards have really gone down. We are settling for roads that are full of potholes.”

Not more than 150 meters

On the Edsa reblocking project, he said “each blocking should not be more than 150 meters and can’t be closer than 200 meters from one blocking to another.”

“There will be some inconvenience every time we do blockings on weekends,” Singson added.

For its part, the MMDA asked motorists to avoid the areas being reblocked and take alternative routes. But it assured motorists that all reblocked areas during weekends would be passable to traffic by Monday morning.

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TAGS: Construction, EDSA, highway, reblocking, road improvement, road quality, traffic
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