"Carmageddon." That's what they call the colossal traffic mess that is expected to result from the construction of connector roads linking the South Luzon Expressway and the North Luzon Expressway. This week, this project has commenced, throwing major parts of Metro Manila in total disarray. They say we can expect this kind of frustrating, hair-pulling traffic until the SLEX-NLEX project is completed--projected to be by June 2016.
And even by the time the project is done, vehicle volume will have surely increased exponentially, thanks in large part to the robust sales of brand-new and imported used cars in the country. What then?
The government, through the Department of Transportation and Communications, is looking to at least help ease this kind of traffic with the planned addition of "48 brand-new Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) to the Metro Rail Transit III (MRT-3) system at the soonest possible time."
"We hope that the order preventing us from adding brand-new LRVs will be lifted immediately, for the public's sake," said DOTC spokesperson Michael Arthur Sagcal. "The DOTC will be able to increase the MRT-3's capacity within two to three years starting from the time that the court allows us to proceed. Since more passengers will be able to take the train, EDSA traffic should be mitigated considerably."
Sagcal is referring to the transport agency's MRT-3 Capacity Expansion Project that involves the purchase of 48 brand-new LRVs "through an open and transparent bidding process conducted last year." According to the agency, "after the contract was awarded to China's Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Company in January, the Regional Trial Court of Makati issued a Temporary Order of Protection (TOP) to halt the process."
Last January 30, the DOTC pointed out, the Makati RTC issued the TOP "in favor of MRT Holdings II, which claims to own and control 100% of the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC). MRTC owns the MRT facilities pursuant to its 1997 concession agreement with government. [But] MRTC's board of directors has since confirmed that the filing of this injunctive suit was unauthorized, and the DOTC has pointed out that it has no contractual relationship with MRT Holdings II."
If implemented, the DOTC explained, "the project will increase the MRT-3's trips per hour from 20 to 24, which will translate to a 60% increase in the number of passengers per hour per direction. This means that, from the current 23,640 people who can avail of the rail service every hour heading toward one direction, the project will make it possible for 37,824 passengers to enjoy this convenience."
The DOTC added that the rail line's average daily ridership is already over 560,000, and that "the project will not only help ease the gridlock on EDSA, but will also make the MRT-3 experience much more bearable for its riders."
The project, once started, will take two to three years to complete, according to Sagcal. This is because "the LRVs will still be manufactured. A prototype will be tested on the system within 12 to 18 months, followed by the delivery of three to four units per succeeding month. This means that traffic decongestion can already start by 2015."
"All we're waiting for is the court’s go signal," Sagcal said.