Rockwell Bridge closure: boon or bane?

By Botchi Santos Philippine Daily Inquirer January 09,2019

With the planned closure of Rockwell Bridge, or the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, happening on Jan. 12, people are up in arms about problems it will cause motorists.

The Department of Public Works and Highways has released simple rerouting guidelines, essentially telling people to either take the Edsa-Guadalupe Bridge, C5, or the Makati-Mandaluyong Bridge.

With the bridge closed for 30 months (basically an eternity, long enough for most motorists to forget that Rockwell Bridge exists), you can imagine the nightmare ahead for many motorists who ply Edsa daily.

Roughly 370,000 vehicles pass through Edsa on a given day, based on 2018 studies. Should Rockwell Bridge close, approximately 100,000 vehicles will be forced to find a new route, and majority of these would end up on Edsa.

Let that sink in. For many people who already face a four to seven hour round-trip traffic-jam ridden commute, this could mean adding 25 percent more time to that, if not more.

I pass through Rockwell Bridge fairly regularly. Two to three times a week, in particular, coming from the south and going home to Mandaluyong.

Rockwell Bridge helps me save roughly 15-20 minutes of driving. I will be directly affected by this closure, and with everyone else forced to ply Edsa, that means my travel time can easily add up to almost an hour. And this is between 11 p.m. to 12 midnight, when Edsa is still jam-packed.

Rockwell Bridge itself is roughly 8 years old. It’s one of the youngest bridges in the country.

It was part of the Austrian Government’s grant to build 19 all-weather bridges to help ease traffic in the country.

Back when the bridge was conceived, it was estimated to cost P300 million. The new bigger, wider bridge will be part of a P5.27 Billion from a grant from China, part of which will also be used to rehabilitate the Binondo-Intramuros Bridge in downtown Manila.

But why do we need to close the existing one? Technology already exists, to create a wider bridge utilizing parts of the existing bridge and without need to close it down completely for 30 months?

To be fair, I truly and sincerely believe in the Duterte administration’s Build, Build, Build program, currently under Sec. Mark Villar’s DPWH guidance.

It truly is the most ambitious infra program I have witnessed in my 40 years of existence. We are future-proofing our infra projects to be able to meet the needs and requirements not just for the present, but also for the long term, one or two decades from today.

But I also see the government’s need to be transparent, practical, and to listen to its people, who will bear the brunt of the necessary sacrifice.

Questions about the Chinese contractor who will be handling the project also need to be clarified as it is currently black-listed by an international NGO due to allegations of collusion, graft and corruption.

The public also needs to see the plans for the new bridge, as well as detailed traffic re-routing plans.

Crucially, the proponents have yet to address whether the new bridge will also mean widened roads on the sides of Mandaluyong (Barangka Drive) and Makati (Estrella St.).

Otherwise, the proposed new 4-lane Rockwell Bridge will just be one giant bottleneck.

We also need more bridges, not just to widen existing ones. Off the top of my head, I’d strongly recommend building bridges in two key areas: a bridge near Circuit Makati which will also cross over to JP Rizal (Mandaluyong side) and from San Francisco Street in Mandaluyong, crossing over to any of the smaller streets such as Baras in Makati.

This will help spread out cars away from Edsa, the Ortigas, Makati, and BGC districts.

I’d like to point out more issues, but until the government, particularly the DPWH—explains itself, I’ll hold out for now.

I do propose an interim solution: hold off closing the Rockwell Bridge, wait for the opening of the new bridge connecting Brgy. Kapitolyo to BGC, Skyway Stage III and SLEX-NLEX connector roads, and the C5 bridge crossing SLEX, before we introduce more traffic-causing infra projects to happen.

Unofficially, the Duterte administration is trying to rush every single infra project it can implement under President Duterte’s term, so that when the next administration rolls in, even if it were anti-Duterte, wouldn’t be able to hold/cancel/postpone these infrastructure projects if they are supposedly 80 percent or more completed.

Hence, the rush to finish everything as soon as possible. That’s how politics is, unfortunately.

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