By: Nestle L. Semilla and Jose Santino S. Bunachita February 18,2018 - 11:45 PM

OUANO AVENUE: This 2-km stretch of road at the Mandaue City side of the North Reclamation Area may look empty on a Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018, when this photo is taken but it is a busy thoroughfare on weekdays and a vital link between the cities of Mandaue and Cebu not just for commuter traffic but for trucks transporting goods between the north and south of Cebu province and in and out of Cebu City’s domestic and international sea ports. CDN DRONE PHOTO/TONEE DESPOJO


Amid a worsening traffic situation in Metro Cebu with the implementation of two major road projects in Mandaue City, officials are looking at addressing potential gridlocks by reimposing a truck ban and finding alternative routes for motorists and commuters.

Mandaue City is looking at diversion or rerouting schemes as its main solution to traffic woes once the road projects begin, said Glenn Antigua, operations chief of the Traffic Enforcement Agency of Mandaue (TEAM).

Antigua said that in coordination with the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7), they are now looking at an alternative road network where they would divert traffic once the projects are implemented.

At least P1.11 billion worth of road projects will be implemented in Mandaue City, which are expected to cause traffic gridlocks not only in the mainland cities of Mandaue and Cebu but also in Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island.

DPWH-7 is set to implement next month the P169.9-million road concreting project of the two-kilometer stretch of Ouano Ave., which connects S. Osmeña Road in Cebu City to Plaridel Street in Mandaue City.

Sometime around July or August, the P946.7 million tri-level pass project along UN Ave., also in Mandaue City, will also start.

Ouano Avenue serves as a parallel road to M.C. Briones that connects to the Cebu North Road. It is also one of the major highways used by trucks delivering goods in and out of Cebu province.

The UN Ave., on the other hand, is a vital thoroughfare that leads to the Marcelo Fernan Bridge, the second bridge connecting the mainland Mandaue City to Lapu-Lapu City on Mactan Island.

Lawyer Elaine Bathan, executive secretary of Mandaue City Mayor Luigi Quisumbing, said that the Ouano Avenue road repair and concreting is long overdue.

“For quite sometime motorists and business establishments have been inconvenienced because of the poor condition of the road and the road patching made were temporary solutions,” Bathan told Cebu Daily News.

She asked the public’s understanding and assured that the city government is making necessary plans to ease traffic.

As for Antigua, they have been in close coordination with DPWH-7 and stakeholders that will be affected with the project.

“Ready na mi. Pero ato tanawon unsa pa ang mahimo nato igkahuman sa dry run (We are ready. But let’s see what other plans we can do after the dry run),” Antigua said, referring to the dry run of the rerouting scheme that will be conducted on Feb. 27.

Antigua said the rerouting scheme will not be hard especially since only private vehicles are currently passing through Ouano Ave.

Public utility jeepneys (PUJs) and tricycles are not allowed in the area.

Truck ban

Antigua said that they are also looking into the possibility of bringing back the truck ban on some major roads in the city, especially the banning of trucks in cargo transport corridors at certain times.

Last year, the city implemented the no-truck ban on a cargo transport corridor in the city where trucks can pass for 24 hours a day along Ouano Ave., A. Soriano St., D.M. Cortes St. and U.N. Avenue.

Trucks are banned from Mandaue City’s streets from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

“Mao ni atong second option ibalik ang truck ban once mag start ang trabaho (This is our second option to bring back the truck ban once the project starts),” Antigua said.

Antigua admitted that they are really expecting “heavy traffic congestion” on Ouano Avenue and there is a big possibility that a truck ban will be implemented on the cargo transport corridor.

Asked what other plans they have to ease congestion, Antigua said that as of the present they are only aiming for diversion of vehicles and the possibility of truck bans.

Antigua said that they are not keen on number coding as suggested by the Mandaue City Chamber of Commerce (CCCI).

Antigua said that coding is not an effective traffic plan especially in Mandaue City since there are many diversion roads in the city.

Water taxis

Meanwhile, the Cebu’s tourism stakeholders, who have been upbeat about the opening of the P17.5-billion Terminal 2 of the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) this June, are concerned as the tri-level pass project along UN Ave. will also start at about this time, bringing heavy traffic to the two existing bridges connecting mainland Cebu and Mactan Island.

One alternative being looked into is to use ferries or water taxis across the Mactan Channel from the pier areas in Cebu and Mandaue cities to Mactan Island.

“I guess we just have to endure travel delays unless there are measures put in place to lessen gridlocks. The water taxis (crossing Mactan Channel) can be a great idea,” said Cebu Provincial Tourism Officer Joselito “Boboi” Costas.

He said the city governments of Cebu, Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu should look into this and coordinate with existing private transport operators to improve this mode of transportation.

The tri-level pass project on UN Ave. is expected to start by July or August this year, or around a month after the opening of the MCIA Terminal 2, which is projected to bring more tourists to and from Cebu.

Cebu Tours and Travel Association (CTTA) President Alan Carvajal also looked at existing ferry services as an alternative mode of transportation.

“The best thing that government should do, as early as now, since the construction will be in July, is to order concerned agencies to present alternative routes. Maybe ferry boats should be in full operation or they should improve it,” he told Cebu Daily News.

“This way, there will be alternative modes of transportation or routes that will not affect the motorists coming in and out of the project construction area. We would want to avoid flight delays and inconvenience to the riding public,” he added.

Carvajal said travel and tour operators would have to make sure to advise their guests to head to the airport earlier than usual.

If passengers have to be at the airport two hours prior to their domestic flights, they would need to head for the airport at least three to four hours before their flights once the project construction starts, he said.

Both Costas and Carvajal agreed that DPWH’s UN Avenue project is important and traffic congestion is an unavoidable consequence.

“Well, the government is improving our infrastructure and that would also mean heavy traffic especially on the roads where these projects are located. But that would also benefit the tourism industry in the long run,” Costas said.

Clarification needed

Meanwhile, the Hotel, Resort, and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) will be asking the DPWH-7 to sit down with their officials and discuss the project in detail.

HRRAC President Carlo Suarez said they have two things they want to clarify: the traffic plan and alternative routes, and the exact timeline of the project to ensure that it is not open-dated.

“Traffic will be getting worse from Mactan to Cebu City. If they can just promise us alternative routes or scheduling, so that we can also adjust especially for our guests, that would be good,” he said.

Suarez pointed out that the timing of the project’s construction could not have been any worse since the MCIA’s Terminal 2 is opening in June.

As to the suggestion of using water taxis and ferry services, Suarez said this would be good for local passengers only. For hotel and resort guests, he said, it may not be an option since the current state of these water transportation services is not at par with the quality of the land transportation services offered by hotels and resorts.

“Water taxis are just there. We have to fix it. We have to renovate it to be up to the standards especially on safety and security. Right now, yes it is efficient, but not as much. If we bring tourists, that is not enough,” Suarez said.

CCCI President Melanie Ng, meanwhile, said they have also scheduled a dialogue with DPWH-7 Regional Director Ador Canlas on Friday, Feb. 23, during CCCI’s general membership meeting.

Lapu-Lapu City’s concerns

Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza, on the other hand, is confident that alternative routes will be available before the construction of a tri-level pass at UN Avenue starts.

She assured that the Regional Development Council of Central Visayas (RDC-7) would have come up with a new traffic plan before construction begins, aware as they are of its adverse effect on business and tourism.

“Businesses and airport users would surely suffer if UN Avenue would not be free from traffic as the first bridge alone cannot accommodate as passageway (for all commuters and motorists crossing between Mandaue and Mactan Island),” added Radaza.

She said the proposal to improve the ferry system along Mactan Channel was taken up in the last RDC-7 meeting but there were no details discussed.

Lapu-Lapu City Tourism Officer Hembler Mendoza, in a phone interview, likewise stressed the need to identity alternative routes as early as now because the city’s economy will be badly affected if Mactan Island will be caught in a horrendous traffic situation.

“More than one half of the city’s income comes from the tourism industry and if we are affected by traffic problems (because) the Marcelo Fernan Bridge won’t have an alternative route, it will mean a big loss to the city,” said Mendoza.

Right now, he said, the city government has started to create tourism activities and develop new tourism sites to take advantage of the expected influx of tourists once the MCIA Terminal 2 opens, while maintaining their being the venue of world class meetings and sports tourism events.

He said they would not let these projects and activities be stymied by traffic-related problems. /with CORRESPONDENT NORMAN V. MENDOZA

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