FROM UNDERPASS TO TUNNEL

By: Jose Santino S. Bunachita and Morexette Marie B. Erram April 20,2018 - 11:27 PM

Cebu City North District Representative Raul Del Mar is pushing for the construction of at least three tunnels similar to the one in the SRP (above), in order to de-congest his district. CDN PHOTO

Del Mar proposes construction of 3 tunnels in north district worth P16B; Soco, business leaders lukewarm to congressman’s proposals

Rep. Raul Del Mar of Cebu City north district now wants to build tunnels after he failed to convince the Regional Development Council in Central Visayas (RDC-7) to endorse his three underpass projects.

He was optimistic that constructing three tunnels in the district’s chokepoints would be a better solution to traffic than underpasses at the same cost –P16 billion.

Since tunnels are covered unlike underpasses, the congressman said the road capacity is doubled — debunking the arguments of RDC-7 officials that his proposed underpasses would not increase road capacity.

“Going beneath the surface is practical and cost-efficient. No existing structure on the ground are demolished. The annoying and hugely expensive right-of-way process is not required,” Del Mar said in his presentation during the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) General Membership Meeting at Marco Polo Plaza Cebu on Thursday afternoon.

But the businessmen were not as excited as the congressman, citing the long and tedious bureaucratic process that a project had to undergo before it would finally be implemented.

Glenn Soco, RDC-7’s Infrastructure Development Committee (IDC) chair, was also lukewarm to Del Mar’s proposal despite the congressman’s assurance that the tunnels would increase road capacity.

“Although we welcome these projects, we have to be careful on picking them. The right ones entail the least cost and inconvenience to the public. We have to base everything on a masterplan which we should have 30 years ago,” Soco said in a phone interview.

So far, he added these tunnels were not needed based on the study made by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on mitigation measures for traffic bottlenecks.

Del Mar first proposed to build an underpass along the 8.2-km corridor from D. Jakosalem St. to F. Sotto Drive to Archbishop Reyes Ave. to Gov. M. Cuenco Ave. to Barangay Talamban proper.

The second would be along a 3.5-km route from Salinas Drive to Pope John Paul II Ave. to S. Osmeña Road; the third, a 2.58-km stretch from Cardinal Rosales Ave. to F. Cabahug St. to Hernan Cortes St. in Mandaue City.

The P16 billion proposed budget for these three underpasses already included road right-of-way budget as well as construction, according to the original Programs, Activities and Projects (PAPs) submitted by the DPWH-7 to the RDC-7.

But during the full-council meeting in March, Kenneth Cobonpue, RDC-7 chair and Soco scaled down the amount to a total of P853 million from P16 billion when they changed the proposals to feasibility studies for “road capacity enhancement.”

Soco explained that the IDC and the Department of Public Works and Highways in Central Visayas had already agreed that they should first wait for official recommendations of the studies before deciding what kind of project should be implemented in these areas.

Del Mar protested the move and walked out from the meeting.

But during the CCCI general membership meeting, Del Mar told the businessmen of his proposals to construct tunnels instead of underpasses in these same areas.

He said he pushed for funding for the three projects because the DPWH central office was already undertaking feasibility studies on these which would be completed by last quarter of 2018.

“The project is already in the construction phase under the DPWH program for 2018. Construction includes the feasibility study, which is a very much a part of any project,” Del Mar said.

The congressman proposed that the P16.08 billion be allocated under the DPWH-7’s programs, activities, and projects for 2019: P9.24 billion be set aside for the D. Jakosalem to Talamban route, P3.94 billion for the Salinas Drive to Osmeña route and P2.9 billion for the Cardinal Rosales Ave. to

Hernan Cortes Ave. route.

But Ted Locson Jr., former CCCI vice president for external affairs and relations, said projects like these take too long to be implemented.

“I do agree with the congressman on making use of over and below space for cars and other transport facilities as ways of improving traffic in Cebu. I just hope if this is accepted, it will not take another 20 years to be implemented,” said Locson.

Lito Maderazo, former president of CCCI, stressed the need to immediately solve Cebu’s worsening traffic problems.

“There are so many proposed solutions to solve our traffic problem. But for me, the best solution is the one that is funded and readily implementable,” he said.

For Soco, his stand remained that the recommendations of the JICA must be followed.

At this point, he added a tunnel was not yet necessary.

Soco also said the RDC-7 needed to put a brake on endorsing big-ticket projects on infrastructure, especially those that were expected to cause heavy traffic during construction.

Hasty implementation of these projects would only bring in more inconvenience to the public and additional cost to the government, he added.

“These projects should be consistent to a masterplan, and they should be harmonized and done in sequence. Apparently, the existing underpass projects are done in haste which leads to gross inconvenience to the public. We have to be prudent in picking the right projects for Cebu as the wrong projects may just do more harm than good,” Soco said.

“We are just really basing it on a plan. Right now, we have a masterplan formulated by JICA. We will reach to that point (where we may consider these projects). But as of now, there are ongoing feasibility studies, which according to DPWH are made to determine what would be the best intervention,” he said.

In March 2016, the JICA study recommended “less capital-intensive to more capital-intensive” projects to address congestion along 20 intersections within Metro Cebu.”

They recommended for modification of “geometric designs and traffic signals” which could include flaring of intersections to be done first.

This should be followed by improvement of area traffic control through synchronized traffic signals and on area-wide traffic control system.

The third recommendation is “grade separation” or construction of underpasses or flyovers; followed by road widening.

But Del Mar said capital-intensive projects should be welcomed considering how hard it would be to secure funding for projects.

“Given the long and tedious process for any big ticket project to gestate, given the completion of various communities for precious national funds, we should welcome opportunities for projects that will ease the traffic problem,” he said.

Del Mar pointed out that his tunnels complement the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and the Light Rail Transit (LRT) projects, which had been identified as short-term and long-term solutions to traffic.

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