Monday, 29 June 2009

Work on South Luzon Expressway to finish 9 mos. earlier, says SLT Corp.

Paul Atienza
Business Mirror

CALAMBA, Laguna—Businessmen and traders from Southern Tagalog and the Bicol region would benefit directly from the multibillion-peso rehabilitation of South Luzon Tollway (SLT), which is supposed to finish in December 2009.

Isaac David, SLT Corp. president, said until its reconstruction, South Luzon Tollway was a 29-km, four-lane expressway from the Alabang viaduct in Muntinlupa to barangay Turbina in Calamba, Laguna.

“When completed, the 30-kilometer Slex [South Luzon Expressway] will total 38 kilometers from the Alabang viaduct to Calamba and [linked to] the STAR Expressway in Santo Tomas, Batangas,” David explained.

STAR Expressway that goes to the Port of Batangas would be able to convey more than the current 60 percent of the country’s exports through Slex from industrial hubs not only in the Calabarzon corridor but from as far south as Mindanao.

Travel time from the Makati Business District to the Batangas City port would be reduced to two hours once the highways are linked from Alabang to Santo Tomas, and travel time from Santo Tomas, Batangas, to Alabang would be shortened to 30 minutes, David said.

“[Slex] has since been widened to eight lanes from Alabang to Santa Rosa, and six lanes from Santa Rosa to barangay Turbina. It is also being extended by another eight kilometers from barangay Turbina to Santo Tomas in Batangas where it will link up with the STAR Tollway,” David said.

The Slex-Star link to the Port of Batangas will offer a seamless nautical and land highway that will save both time and transport cost for passenger and freight movers.

David assured the project would be finished nine months ahead of the target date of September 2010.

“The Slex project duration is 33 to 36 months per contract. Its scheduled completion date for Toll Road-1 and Toll Road-2 is June 2009. However, per government request, the completion schedule for Toll Road-3 has been shortened to 20 months and 15 days, which will end in December 2009,” David claimed.

David said the SLT project is divided into three general work packages called Project Toll Roads (TR) 1, 2 and 3.

TR-1 is the full repair, reconstruction and widening of the 1.2-km, six-lane Alabang viaduct.

“Built in 1976, the bridge had become structurally weak, and could no longer accommodate vehicles 20 tons and over, and could collapse from a high-intensity earthquake. Its rehabilitation involved seismic retrofitting of all of its columns and footings, and total replacement and expansion of the bridge deck from six to eight lanes,” David said.

TR-2 is the reconstruction of the four-lane stretch from south of the Alabang viaduct Filinvest to barangay Turbina in Calamba.

The roadway was widened to eight lanes up to Santa Rosa, and to six lanes up to Turbina. A flood-control system was also installed in San Pedro.

“The section from Alabang to San Pedro has the highest vehicle count and was the most congestion-prone area of the expressway before the rehabilitation,” David said.

The SLT has 14 bridges and two viaducts. The San Juan viaduct in Calamba, Laguna, was widened from four to six lanes by building a new bridgedeck between the twin bridges using a custom-built girder launcher.

“After the bridgework’s completion, the old bridges were found to be structurally weak and their reconstruction was added to the project’s scope of work,” David said.

TR-3 is a new four-lane toll road from Turbina to Santo Tomas where it will link with the STAR tollway. “The road includes six bridges, three overpasses and a flyover link to STAR,” David said.

David said SLT is faced with the problem of maintaining the expressway because of overloaded cargo trucks that destroy the roads and bridges.

“We are having problems in maintaining the investment of investors due to overloaded trucks,” David said.

By law, the tonnage of cargoes must not exceed 13.5 tons. The weighing scales of the SLT expressway are located in Bicutan and Turbina.

Rafael Yabut, undersecretary of public works for operation, said that on a daily basis, almost 300,000 vehicles pass through the Slex. He said a 15-percent increase occurs on holidays.

“Slex has the highest volume, nonstop, of vehicular traffic compared with any expressway in the country,” Yabut said.

He said 18 percent to 20 percent of traffic consist of commuter buses, and cargo and container trucks moving industrial goods and agricultural produce, as well as more than 60 percent of the landed and export products to and from Luzon.

David also complained that the Land Transportation Office (LTO) has issued a directive that cargo trucks loaded with agricultural products that go to Metro Manila must be exempt from the rule of prohibition on overloading.

“Truck drivers have been showing us a copy of the directive from the LTO which gives them exemption on overloading,” David said.

Yabut said Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane has been telling the truck operators to observe the rules on overloading.

“We will check that directive which was allegedly issued by the LTO,” Yabut said.

Ambassador Donald Dee of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said he would be talking to PCCI members for them to follow road standards and on overloading.

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