Over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of new bridges and massive road networks pop up in Metro Manila. It has come to our attention, however, that the focus of some people—quite possibly the younger generation—might be too much on recent pieces of infrastructure and little to none on the other engineering marvels that came before.
So for our part, we’re going to share with you some fun facts on other historical infrastructure projects. We’re going to talk about bridges first, and the one on today’s agenda is the San Juanico Bridge.
Before the official opening of the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX), the San Juanico Bridge was the country’s longest bridge that crossed a body of water. Construction of the bridge began in August 1969 and was officially completed in December 1972. It was built as part of the Pan-Philippine Highway or what we now also call the Maharlika Highway.
The bridge spans 2.162km and connects the islands of Samar and Leyte. It’s not an expressway, however, so you shouldn’t mistake this as such. Again, it’s called the San Juanico Bridge, not the Samar-Leyte Expressway.
And speaking of tollways, despite the sheer length of the San Juanico Bridge, it still pales in comparison to major tollways here in Luzon. The entirety of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), for example, spans about 50km. You’d have to cross the bridge at least 23 times to match driving through the whole stretch of SLEX.
The newer bridges in the metro, on the other hand, don’t even come close. They may seem big for Metro Manila, but in reality, they’re merely fractions of the San Juanico Bridge. The Rockwell Bridge spans only about 500m, or a fourth of the San Juanico Bridge. The Binondo-Intramuros Bridge, meanwhile, is only 680m long.
The San Juanico Bridge hasn’t lasted this long without any interventions whatsoever. In the early 2000s, it underwent a major rehabilitation project under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Some of the most recent projects involving the bridge include the P80 million San Juanico Aesthetic Lighting Project, which was supposed to be inaugurated in 2021 but was delayed in order to make way for major repair works by the DPWH. Said repairs include the tightening and replacement of bolts—the first since the bridge began construction—and are all part of a P95.25 million project. A viewdeck was also opened in July 2022 for tourists wanting to take photos of the structure.
Unfortunately for the San Juanico Bridge, it will be pushed further down the list of longest bridges in the country. A 3.169km bridge in Mindanao is in the works. But that’s not the last of it—an even bigger 32km four-lane connecting Bataan and Cavite is in the pipeline.