P1 BILLION A DAY

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita April 03,2018 - 11:08 PM

ECONOMIC COST OF TRAFFIC JAMS

Economic losses brought on by unresolved traffic congestion in Metro Cebu has been placed at P1.1 billion a day or even more, according to the initial results of a study being conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).

And this could even increase once the study is finished towards the end of the year and if poorly planned infrastructure projects are implemented.

These were revealed by Cebu Business Club (CBC) president Gordon Alan Joseph during yesterday’s 888 News Forum that he attended along with other officials from the Regional Development Council (RDC) 7 and the Metro Cebu Development and Coordinating Board (MCDCB).

“The actual economic cost to Cebu by traffic is P1.1 billion a day. That’s from Jica. One of their experts said it could be more as they are still trying to refine figures. Can we afford this kind of traffic and this kind of non-planning? What we’re experiencing today is a result of poor planning,” said Joseph.

Joseph, who is also the chairperson of the executive committee and integrated development committee and co-chairperson from the private sector of the MCDCB, said the Jica study is expected to be finished at the last quarter of 2018.

Initial findings of the “Master Plan Study and Institutional Development on Urban Transport System in Metro Cebu” were presented by the Jica team last week together with Rene Santiago, a Filipino transport expert who is also part of the Jica team.

Joseph pointed out how infrastructure projects like the ongoing P683-million underpass project along N. Bacalso Ave., Cebu City by the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas (DPWH-7) are being implemented without proper traffic management plans, adding that the project was unnecessary and that the traffic mess being experienced by people in the south district could have been avoided.

“We in the Cebu Business Club, we in the business sector, we in Mega Cebu, we are tired of this. Mega Cebu has come up with some great recommendations on how to proceed with planning. Why were none of our plans, created by experts, even considered when DPWH comes up with their programs and projects?” he said.

‘Sequence’

Among these studies and recommendations by Jica was a roadmap study on Mitigation Measures for Traffic Bottlenecks, which was also submitted to Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III in March 2016.

The recommendation was for officials to start with “less capital-intensive” projects to address congestion along 20 intersections within Metro Cebu.

This was the same study pointed out by RDC-7 co-chairperson Kenneth Cobonpue and RDC-7 Infrastructure Development Committee (IDC) head

Glenn Soco when the council decided not to endorse for the 2019 budget consideration the proposed P16-billion additional “depressed structure” and “underpass” projects in five areas in Cebu City.

“There is a master plan and there is a sequence to doing things. Our politicians pick out the biggest projects for obvious reasons. Why this has gone through for several years is because of fear. People don’t want to go against politicians,” Cobonpue said.

The RDC-7 was put on the spotlight last month after Cebu City North District Rep. Raul Del Mar, who was pushing for the underpass projects, walked out of the full council meeting after finding out that the projects were not endorsed.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, a political ally of Del Mar, called the RDC officials “incompetent” for allegedly blocking projects for Cebu.

“We’re here and we are not scared. We have been accused of being obstructionists. I have been called a peddler of overpriced chairs. At least, I don’t peddle overpriced underpasses,” said Cobonpue, an internationally renowned furniture designer.

The RDC-7 officials pointed out that under the Jica recommendations, the first traffic-related projects that should be done in Metro Cebu are the modification of “geometric designs and traffic signals,” which include flaring of intersections to enhance road capacity.

The second recommendation called for the improvement of area traffic control through synchronized traffic signals and area-wide traffic control system.

Jica also recommended “grade separation” or the construction of underpasses or flyovers, and for the widening of existing roads.

‘Heads should roll’

Aside from the N. Bacalso Ave. underpass project, a similar project is also set to be implemented by DPWH-7 on U.N. Ave. in Mandaue City, which connects to the Marcelo Fernan Bridge, which links mainland Cebu to Mactan Island. The P711.8-million project is set to start by the third quarter of this year.

However, several stakeholders expressed concern over the project, especially since DPWH-7 has not presented an accompanying traffic management plan.

DPWH-7 Planning Division head Nonato Paylado earlier said that the contractor, B.M. Marketing, was still finalizing the plan. Initially, however, they planned to open four lanes of road, or two-lane service roads on each side of the existing four-lane U.N. Ave.

But Joseph still slammed the underpass project, which is just part of a tri-level plan in the area.

“Imagine today we are losing P1.1 billion daily today and then they close U.N. Ave. for three years. The tourism industry will dry up and die. New investors in the airport will lose money,” he said.

Joseph noted that tourist arrivals in Cebu are expected to triple by the middle of this year when the P17.5-billion new Terminal 2 of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) opens in June.

With the traffic “chaos we are experiencing today” as a result of ill-planned projects initiated by DPWH-7, Joseph believed “heads should roll.”

Daily inconvenience

DPWH-7 officials were also grilled by Cebu City councilors in an executive session on Tuesday to discuss the N. Bacalso Ave. underpass project.
Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera, who is from the south district, said she will run after the DPWH-7 if the present traffic situation along N. Bacalso Avenue would not be solved.

“We have really been experiencing not just an inconvenience but it’s really, really inconvenient every day,” said Pesquera, as she revealed that her usual 15-minute travel time from her home to City Hall would now take her at least two hours.

Roy dela Cruz, the DPWH-7 project engineer who was called to the executive session, said the N. Bacalso underpass project was 68 percent complete and could likely be finished by December this year, ahead of the original completion date of March 2019.

DPWH-7 was supposed to implement a road widening prior to the underpass construction. But due to lack of budget and concerns on the land acquisition of the road right of way, Dela Cruz said the plan to open up six lanes of service roads could no longer be done.

This angered Pesquera who later told reporters she would file graft charges against DPWH-7 if the traffic situation worsens.

“Graft charge. Supposedly the project of the government is supposed to be a solution to a problem not a source of another problem. By the time they presented that project to us, they were telling us that anyway don’t worry because there’s still side roads that you can use. And they’ll just tell us now that it was not included in the budget,” Pesquera fumed.

Councilor Dave Tumulak also urged the contractor to operate 24 hours a day to hasten the project and ease the sufferings of southbound commuters. / WITH CORRESPONDENT DORIS MAY MONDRAGON

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