Friday, 26 February 2010

Arroyo wants LRT-1 extended to Cavite

By Paolo Montecillo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to fast-track the planned extension of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) line 1 to Cavite province.

While checking on the progress of the LRT north extension project, which connects Line 1 with Edsa’s Metro Rail Transit (MRT) system, the President on Thursday revived plans to extend the overhead train line to benefit commuters from the southern outskirts of Metro Manila.

The LRT North Extension project involves the construction of a 5.4-kilometer elevated viaduct to connect the LRT’s northernmost station, Monumento, to the MRT’s North Avenue station on EDSA.

The P7.6-billion project built by DM Consunji Inc. and First Balfour Inc. will add three new stations on the northern end of the LRT line 1 — Balintawak, Roosevelt and North Avenue — all along Edsa. The last station will be shared with the MRT.

By the middle of next month, LRT Authority (LRTA) Administrator Melquiades Robles said the government would open only the Balintawak station, which has been strategically located to benefit commuters coming from the North Luzon Expressway.

While trains can already pass through all stations, more tests would be done to ensure the safety of the Roosevelt and North Avenue stations, Robles said.

Once operational, Robles said the extension could boost the number of people riding the LRT line by as up to 100,000 a day. LRT 1 ferries an average of half a million people daily. The Light Rail Transit Authority expects to have all three new stations operational before the third quarter of this year.

Robles said the North Extension, dubbed as “Closing the Loop,” was one of the cheapest and fastest built infrastructure projects the government commissioned. Even more noteworthy, he said, was that this was completely funded locally, and while most toll roads and train systems are foreign-made, the LRT extension was built by Filipinos.

“The President has told us to open the LRT North Extension as soon as possible. We want to have a partial opening by March 15,” Robles said.

“But what she wants next is the LRT south extension,” he added.

The LRT South Extension, which was earlier shelved by the DOTC, aims to extend Metro Manila’s oldest and most utilized train line to Imus or Bacoor cities in Cavite, from the current southern end in Baclaran, Pasay City.

The South Extension, estimated to cost about $1 billion, will add about 15 kilometers of new tracks to the LRT line 1. The Cavite extension has been on the state’s drawing board for years, but no real plans have been firmed up so far.

The South Extension will in turn add another 200,000 passengers a day to the LRT’s capacity.

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