Traffic gridlocks at the expressways

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    MOTORISTS pay a premium to use the expressways, hoping they could get to their destinations fast, safe and without much hassle. The expressways — particularly the South Luzon Expressway in September 2019 — have a way of reminding the public that they are a virtual trap, and at times, you have to pay much to suffer losses in time, money, muscle and engine power, patience, fuel, etc. when these thoroughfares fail.

    The first “carmageddon” was experienced at SLEX in the third week of September 2019, with traffic stretching for 24 kilometers, the distance from the Eton exit in Sta. Rosa, Laguna to Alabang, Muntinlupa. The reason for this heavy traffic was the indefinite closure of the Skyway’s at-grade’s outermost lane right after the Alabang viaduct to give way to the construction of pylons for the six-kilometer extension of the Skyway, from Barangay Cupang to Susana Heights. Now that the construction has been finished, motorists have forgotten this initial ordeal and are happily using the new San Miguel Corp. facility.

    ‘We do not need the senators to crack the whip on the expressway operators, if the TRB will just be strict in implementing its rules…’

    This was repeated one Saturday, particularly Nov. 21, 2020, when a steel girder for a portion of the Skyway extension then being constructed crashed into passing vehicles, leaving at least one dead and four others hurt. The contractor explained that a crane that was being positioned for its next task tilted and fell on the girder, which spans the length of two posts of the northbound land of the Skyway extension project. As a result, another four-hour drive from Binan, Laguna to Alabang, moving at 3 to 5 kilometers per hour!

    This traffic tragedy, unfortunately, manifested lately at the North Luzon Expressway, with the city of Valenzuela, its motorists, residents and officials, understandably being provoked to anger.

    Lawmakers led by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian see the poor implementation of the radio frequency identification (RFID) system at NLEX, and the long lines of vehicles trying to get the RFID stickers at the Bocaue exit, as the culprit. Senator Gatchalian forthwith called for a review of the concession agreement between the government and toll operators over issues of poor performance and other possible violations in the implementation of the RFID scheme.

    Gatchalian is correct in holding the expressway operators and the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) responsible for the failure of these transport facilities to render at least regular service to the public, more so because users of the expressways pay good money for the promised service.

    We do not need the senators to crack the whip on the expressway operators, if the TRB will just be strict in implementing its rules and regulations on DOTr Order 2020-12 requiring cashless or contactless transactions for all vehicles traveling on toll expressways.

    The IRR states that toll operators are required to “ensure at all times the efficient operation and maintenance of the toll collection facility.”