THE operator of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) is in hot water. And for good reason.
Last Sept. 26, the metropolis witnessed a monstrous traffic jam at SLEX, with the line of vehicles stretching from Alabang viaduct to the Eton exit in Sta. Rosa City, a distance of 24 kilometers. The reason was the closure of the outermost lane of the Skyway at-grade level on the night of Sept. 24, to make way for the construction of the P10 billion Skyway extension project from Barangay Cupang to Barangay Putatan, both in Muntinlupa City.
Motorists and officials of the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) said the closure was almost without due notice to motorists, who were caught unprepared, thus the huge traffic jam that frayed their nerves.
The exceedingly slow traffic flow in this section of the SLEX is expected to continue until the construction of the extension is finished. Inasmuch as one pays for the use of an “expressway” the user has to have his money’s worth – a fast and smooth ride which the SLEX now is unable to provide.
The next best thing, therefore, is for the operator to give the motorists a discount, if not to let them use the facility for free. Two senators suggested the lowering of the toll during the construction period of the Skyway extension.
It was Secretary Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the co-chairman of Toll Regulatory Board (TRB), who directed the regulator to look into the possibility of reducing toll on SLEX. And this was before Senators Grace Poe and Sherwin Gatchalian even suggested the need for such measure.
Secretary Tugade is known to be on top of the situation in any emergency, especially about glitches and problems in the operation of airports, railways, roads and sea ports. The DOTr chief’s job is enormous and attracts criticism, even if much of the problems had been handed down to him by past administrations. Tugade is there to accept the challenge and work for the commuters and motorists.
The TRB is waiting for the SLEX and Skyway operators to make an offer. If this is delayed, then the board will take the necessary action to give the public some relief. This had been done before, during the repairs and rehabilitation of the 30-km stretch from Alabang to Calamba City in 2008.
Fast-paced construction and development of our road network necessitate some sacrifice from the people, this we understand. But it should be incumbent on big business, represented here by the expressway operators, to share the burden, too.