MMDA on Rockwell Bridge closure: If not now, when?

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 16) — "If we're not going to do this now, [when?]"

This was what Metro Manila Development Authority General Manager Jojo Garcia told CNN Philippines' The Source on Wednesday in defending the government's plan to close down the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, commonly known as the Rockwell Bridge, for 30 months to give way for its ₱1.47 billion rehabilitation.

 

"We have a data na every year there's 270,000 new vehicles in Metro Manila, in NCR. Hindi pa kasama ang Region IV, Region III na pumupunta sa Metro Manila during the morning. Kung three years gagawin 'yan, so 270,000 [a year,] close to 1 million 'yan, ang bagong sasakyan. Kung hihintayin natin nang hihintayin nang hihintayin at bago nating isara, wala na talagang mangyayari," Garcia said.

[Translation: We have data that every year, there are 270,000 new vehicles in Metro Manila. This is excluding cars from Region IV and Region III coming to Metro Manila every morning. If that would take three years and there are 270,000 new cars yearly, then that's close to 1 million new cars. If we'll wait and wait and wait before we close it, then nothing would happen.]

The Rockwell Bridge, connecting Estrella Street in Makati and Barangka Drive in Mandaluyong, would be closed beginning 4 a.m. Saturday to allow works on it, which Garcia said include its demolition and expansion into a four-lane bridge. Construction is expected to last until the first quarter of 2021.

 

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said the widening of the bridge would decrease traffic congestion by up to 3,360 vehicles daily at Makati-Mandaluyong Bridge and by 4,474 vehicles daily at Guadalupe Bridge.

The DPWH added that since the bridge is located near the West Valley fault, its rehabilitation is needed to prepare it for earthquakes.

While the Rockwell Bridge is closed, Garcia said the travel time of 35,000 motorists who ply the bridge daily would stretch by an additional hour.

The DPWH said 60 percent of traffic passing through the bridge would be diverted to the Makati-Mandaluyong Bridge while 20 percent would head to EDSA Guadalupe. The remaining 20 percent would use other routes like the Lambingan Bridge and the Pasig-Makati Bridge or C5, it added.

“Talagang hassle. Hassle talaga. Pero ito ‘yung mga hinihintay nating long term solutions,” he said.

[Translation: It’s a hassle. It really is a hassle. But these are the long term solutions we have long been waiting for.]

The bridge's closure and rehabilitation have raised motorists' and some lawmakers' eyebrows, including Senator Grace Poe, who has called for a Senate probe on the reconstruction of a "perfectly working" bridge.

Among the issues Poe flagged in Senate Resolution No. 984 are the benefits of the bridge widening  from two to four lanes, as one side of the bridge lands on a two-lane street, and its construction by Chinese Communications Construction Company (CCCC) previously blacklisted by the World Bank.

The DPWH said both ends of the Rockwell Bridge will be widened to accommodate the additional volume of traffic in the area, with the DPWH Metro Manila First District Engineering Office conducting a survey in preparation for the road widening of Pantaleon Street, while the Mandaluyong City government is considering the widening of Barangka Drive as a priority project.

However, Garcia could not answer Poe's concerns about CCCC, which was banned from July 29, 2011 to January 12, 2017 by the World Bank, together with all of its subsidiaries, from engaging in any road and bridge projects the international financial institution funded.

"'Yung pagdating sa [When it comes to the] banned Chinese contractor, it's not my call. It's [the Department of Public Works and Highways.] Sa kanilang transaksyon 'yan eh. [That's their transaction,]" Garcia said.

He said the Rockwell bridge is one of 10 bridges to be built using funding from China. Among them is the Guadalupe Bridge, which might also be closed down, but motorists may still ply the same route using a temporary bridge which the government will build.