Saturday, 25 April 2009

Paging Madam President: please help these guys out of the SLEX traffic jam!

Peter Wallace
Manila Standard

I’m angry, very angry, and I can’t understand why no one else is. It used to take me 30 minutes to go from Alabang to Makati in non-peak hours. Now it takes up to an hour and a half! I understand this situation will exist for the next 18 months or so. And all I get is a small sign that says: “Sorry for the longer travel time.” Well I’m sorry but I can’t accept it.

I’ve looked at the construction and it seems pretty clear to me that one lane can be given back to us on each side with more careful arrangement of the equipment and materials. It currently seems to be laid out for best efficiency for the contractor. Fine—if it doesn’t inconvenience tens of thousands of people. But it does.

The three-foot-wide concrete barriers can be replaced with three-inch-thick steel barriers and everything can be located between the pylons with a minimal walking path on one side (southbound) past the pylons. Also, work can be done at night when traffic is light and stopped during peak hours with the barriers brought right in. The extra cost and inconvenience to the contractor is nothing compared to the huge cost of thousands of engines idling gas away and leading us even quicker into global warming, let alone the cost of lost business time of tens of thousands of workers.

There is no attempt to manage traffic flow. Although they now have a designated lane for cars, buses and trucks (what else is there?) and another for cars only—that crashes into the construction as you near the skyway. It was the same with the expansion of the viaduct and now also is with the upgrading of SLEX, traffic is disrupted. It costs money to do it properly and I suspect that was not budgeted for in the government proposals to do the work. The contractors, of course, aren’t willing to use their own funds. It would be easy enough to amend the skyway and SLEX projects now to provide funds for traffic management. Something government should seriously, urgently consider.

The upgrading of NLEX shows it can be done. There the construction company did introduce traffic management as part of its mandate to do the project. As those of you who traveled at that time know, disruption to traffic flow was minimal and only for short periods in those instances where it couldn’t be avoided.

The President is reputed to be a micro-manager, here’s a good one for her to micro-manage. As an economist, she’d well understand the economic and social cost of this dislocation—and give us back another lane. Some traffic guidance officers also might help to speed traffic through if they’re properly trained. You can be sure the “cars only” lane won’t be obeyed unless there is policing of it.

If you too are angry, e-mail me (it’s at the end of the column). Let’s force an improvement. Or perhaps the contractor, if he reads this, will just make the changes anyway. Or show me why it really can’t be done.

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