Cebu City is now caught in a traffic sandwich as two of its most important access points are undergoing road construction projects.
The P169.9-million road concreting project along Ouano Avenue in Mandaue City, which directly connects to S. Osmeña Road at the North Reclamation Area in Cebu City, officially started yesterday after a two-day traffic dry run, which, officials noted, saw no major hitches.
On the other end, traffic congestion continues to be heavy along N. Bacalso Avenue, the highway going to southern Cebu, with the closure of F. Llamas St. to pave the way for the third phase of the P683-million underpass project in the intersection.
Both projects, funded by the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7), are also undertaken by the same contractor — WT Construction Inc.
To ease traffic within Cebu City, Mayor Tomas Osmeña ordered the deployment of 20 city-owned buses that will bypass N. Bacalso Ave. and ferry passengers in and out of the city for free during peak hours.
From six buses, the city government deployed, starting yesterday, 20 Kaohsiung buses going to the southern part of the city.
From 6 a.m. to 9 a.m and from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., commuters from Barangays Bulacao, Pardo, Kinasang-an Pardo, Quiot Pardo, Basak Pardo, and Basak San Nicolas can get off their public utility jeepneys (PUJs) at Cabreros St. and head towards the buses waiting on N. Bacalso corner Caimito St.
The buses will ferry them to Leon Kilat Street and vice versa.
Cebu City Transportation Office (CCTO) operations chief Francisco Ouano said they were still using the parking area of Metro Department Store for the loading and unloading PUJ passengers.
In Mandaue City, Glenn Antigua, head of the Traffic Enforcement Agency of Mandaue (Team), yesterday said that traffic was still manageable along Ouano Ave. as of Friday, which also marked the first day of actual civil works that included scraping off the existing asphalt on three of the four-lane northbound side of the road.
He said they were able to manage the traffic flow in the area because their diversion routes were able to accommodate the big trucks.
The Team earlier designated M. Logarta Ave., F.E. Zuellig Ave. and Lopez Jaena Street as diversion roads while the project is ongoing. The two-day traffic dry run also helped drivers look for their own alternative routes and avoid the construction area, added Antigua.
During peak hours (7 a.m.- 9 a.m., 11 a.m.-1 p.m., and 5 p.m.-7 p.m.), Antigua said they deployed at least 20 Team personnel to man traffic in the area.
Antigua reiterated his advice for motorists to avoid Ouano Ave. as much as possible and to follow the signage that were put up to guide them to the alternate routes.
At N. Bacalso Ave., Cebu City Councilor David Tumulak noted that while congestion remained heavy, some of the commuters were already able to adjust and woke up earlier than usual to avoid the gridlock.
He noted that students and workers have begun commuting as early as 5:30 a.m., which reduced the number of people on the city’s southbound road during peak hours from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Friday.
City-owned Kaohsiung buses that ferry southbound passengers to the vicinity of Barangay Bulacao also helped to ease the traffic, he added.
Hans Mikel Alvarico, a public school teacher, left home one hour earlier than his usual time since he was anticipating the traffic in the area. He said he usually left for work at 8:45 a.m. but since last Thursday’s closure of F. Llamas St., he left his house at around 8 a.m.
Alvarico’s house in Barangay Basak was usually just 10 minutes away from the school in Barangay Labangon where he teaches but he, along with hundreds of commuters, got stuck for hours in traffic last Thursday after the closure of F. Llamas Street.
The underpass construction along N. Bacalso Ave. has also taken its toll among small businesses along the area.
A tire and battery supply shop, located just along the highway, was forced to close and transfer to another site last December because they were not getting any more customers due to the heavy traffic.
The owner of the building where the store was located told CDN he was now considering closing his business since nobody else wanted to rent the space.
“That is really my plan now, to just close. Since December, I put up a tarp to advertise the store space but only less than five inquired and nobody pushed through. We are really affected by the project,” said the owner who requested anonymity.
Another businessman who owns a two-storey commercial complex along the highway echoed the complaints of their tenants of revenue losses due to lack of customers caused by the underpass project construction. The complex houses a salon, a restaurant, a medical laboratory and ambulatory services, among others.
“The way I see it, these businesses are just trying to hold on until they can. But I really expect that they will soon pull out or request for us to waive their rental fees since they are not getting any customers anymore,” the businessman told CDN on condition of anonymity.
Tumulak, head of the City Council’s committee on public order and safety, acknowledged the concerns of the businesses in the area.
He admitted that representatives of some businesses operating near the project site have visited Cebu City Hall to seek help from the city government and Mayor Osmeña.
But Tumulak said he advised them to meet among themselves first and consolidate all their concerns before meeting with the mayor.
Private vehicle ban
Osmeña earlier announced he planned to ban private vehicles along N. Bacalso Ave. during peak hours while the project is ongoing as a way to mitigate traffic in the area. But he said he wanted more public consultation on this first.
However, Barug Team Rama Councilors Raymond Garcia and Joel Garganera were already saying they are not in favor of banning private vehicles on N. Bacalso.
Garganera said Osmeña’s idea would not solve the worsening traffic in the south.
“It does not solve the problem. That project (underpass) is poorly planned,” Garganera said.