DURING PEAK HOURS
Rosalina Navarro, 54, left her house in Barangay Kinasang-an early morning on Thursday to get to the Miller Hospital along Tres de Abril Street in Barangay San Nicolas where her husband Edgar, 52, is undergoing kidney dialysis.
She waited for a PUJ ride along Pardo Public Market at 6 a.m. but two hours later, she was still unable to get a ride. Left with no other choice, Navarro decided to walk a distance of 4.4 kilometers to get to the hospital.
“Nagdali gyud ko ganihang buntag unya wa man gyud ko kasakay. Dinugay nakong huwat. Akong bana wa pay kaon didto. Nahuman nalang siyag dialysis. Gilakaw nalang nako (I was in a hurry but I never got a PUJ ride. My husband has not had his breakfast yet. He had completed his dialysis and I was still not at the hospital. I decided to just walk.),” she told Cebu Daily News.
Navarro was just one of many commuters stranded in the area.
Heavy traffic congestion greeted southern Cebu City residents early on Thursday with the closure of F. Llamas Street starting at 6 a.m. to give way to the construction of the third phase of the underpass project along Natalio Bacalso Avenue in Barangay San Nicolas.
Navarro said she had heard reports of the city’s plan to close F. Llamas Street but she never thought the road closure was scheduled yesterday.
“Agwanta lang ta. Manghinaot lang ta nga makatabang unya na ang underpass sa umaabot. Basin makatabang (We just have to bear with the inconvenience. I could only hope that the underpass project, when completed, will be beneficial for our future. I hope that it will be helpful),” she said.
Private vehicle ban
The traffic gridlock now experienced in the city prompted Mayor Tomas Osmeña to revive his earlier proposal to implement a ban on private vehicles along N. Bacalso during peak hours, a proposal which he first raised in November last year.
But first, Osmeña said, he wanted to hear the public’s sentiments on his proposal.
“I want to do a public consultation on this. (I want) that private cars will be banned (along N. Bacalso Avenue) during peak hours because there are more people on a jeepney than in a private car. I’m just thinking aloud,” Osmeña said during his press conference on Thursday.
Osmeña was confident that the ban, if implemented, would decongest the city’s southern corridor.
“Public versus private. Atong timbang timbangon, mas daghan gyud ang public — ang mga tawo, mga estudyante ug mga empleyado (Let’s weigh this carefully, there are more public transport commuters — students, employees and the public in general.) They have to go to work on time. Anyway naay remedyo sa mga (there is a remedy for) private cars (commuters), sakay sila sa (let them ride the) jeep,” the mayor said.
Councilor Dave Tumulak, the deputy mayor on police matters, said the city government would welcome any proposal that would help them address congestion problems in the south that was compounded by the implementation of the N. Bacalso underpass project, which began in November 2017.
“For now, agwanta lang gyud ta gamay (Let us bear with the inconvenience),” Tumulak said.
The underpass project is not only causing inconvenience on commuters and motorist, but is also hurting businesses in the area, Tumulak noted.
A number of small businesses like water refilling stations and automotive shops have shut down operations starting in December 2017.
Tumulak said that representatives of Shopwise Cebu located along N. Bacalso also visited his office last January to raise a concern over the decline in their sales.
He said he could only assure them that the closure was just temporary.
However, the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7), which is implementing the P683-million project, said it would take two years to complete the underpass.
Closure of F. Llamas Street will allow implementation of phase three of the project that focuses on ground excavation in front of Super Metro, which will serve as the endpoint of the underpass project.
Phase 3 is expected to be completed in June, said DPWH-7 Project Engineer Roy dela Cruz.
On Thursday morning, commuters and motorists were caught by surprise by the closure of F. Llamas St. when vehicles coming from the southern part of the city were diverted to E. Sabellano St., to the vicinity of the Pardo church before they were allowed to proceed to a portion of N. Bacalso in downtown Cebu City.
The traffic gridlock continued until 10 a.m. as traffic on N. Bacalso’s northbound lane is normally heavy in the morning while commuters headed for work and schools. Congestion transferred to the highway’s southbound lane in the afternoon as commuters headed for home.
Anticipating another gridlock in the afternoon rush hours, City Hall deployed a Kaoshiung bus to ferry southbound passengers to the vicinity of Barangay Bulacao, Cebu City’s southern boundary to Talisay City, starting at 4 p.m.
Tumulak said they will begin deploying six buses to transport passengers for free during peak hours from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. The six buses will transport northbound passengers in the morning and will ferry southbound passengers in the afternoon.
Passengers headed for the city’s northern corridors can take the bus ride from its parking area along Caimito Street. Northbound buses will travel to Leon Kilat, Sanciangco and Panganiban Streets before returning to its origin.
Southbound commuters who wish to avail of the city’s free ride offer are advised to take a PUJ ride from downtown Cebu City to Caimito Street in Barangay Mambaling. They will then have to walk around 100 meters to the vicinity of Friendship Village where the city’s kaoshiung buses, which will take them to Barangay Bulacao, are parked.
“This is a contribution of the city government to passengers especially (the) working passengers and students,” said Tumulak partly in Cebuano.
Francisco Ouano, Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) operations chief, said the management of Super Metro Department Store has agreed to open their parking area for the loading and unloading of PUJ passengers in the next eight days.
Osmeña, meanwhile, said that while City Hall tries to address the needs of commuters affected by the closure of F. Llamas St., he is also looking for a long-term solution to the congestion problem in the city’s southern corridor.
He said that banning private vehicles on N. Bacalso would also allow private car owners to consider taking public transport, which would also prepare them for the implementation of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the city’s mass transport system that it hoped to reduce the use of private vehicles on the road.
Osmeña said he was also planning to issue an Executive Order that would allow the CCTO to impound for a period of 60 days trucks that will be involved in vehicular accidents at the South Coastal Road of the South Road Properties (SRP) in the wake of the traffic gridlock in the area on Wednesday caused by a truck that overturned and cut off the flow of vehicles in SRP for nearly a day. /with Day Desk Editor Doris C. Bongcac