CITY OF SAN FERNANDO – The builder and concessionaire of the North Luzon Expressway is planning to construct a third highway alongside the two 5.3-kilometer viaducts crossing the Candaba Swamp in Bulacan and Pampanga.
House deputy speaker Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr., said that NLEX Corp. officials disclosed the plan in a consultative meeting he organized last Nov. 29. This, after the congressman publicly called for the construction of new bridges to replace the 46-year-old viaducts due to safety concerns.
NLEX Corp. is currently undertaking repair and retrofitting measures at the Candaba Viaduct.
“The new road and the improvement of the present expressway will ensure the continued interconnectivity of Metro Manila and areas south of Luzon, on one hand, and central and northern Luzon, on the other,” Gonzales said.
He noted that aside from thousands of motorists and commuters, billions of pesos worth of goods are transported between the National Capital Region and central and Northern Luzon through NLEX.
“So, safety issues arising from the two viaducts’ age and their constant use and heavy load are a real concern. I am glad that NLEX Corp. is addressing these,” he enthused.
A civil engineer by profession, Gonzales said he had foreseen such issues in 2016, when he proposed in a meeting with the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry that a new viaduct needed to be constructed.
Lawyer Romulo Quimbo, chief communications officer of Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. of which NLEX Corp. is a subsidiary, was reported to have told the meeting that the third highway would be built between the two existing northbound and southbound viaducts.
To comprise six lines, the third highway is planned to start construction in the first quarter of 2023 and targeted to be completed toward the end of 2024. A traffic scheme will be set in place during construction to avoid inconvenience and disruptions on the part of motorists and commuters.
Quimbo said the third highway is planned to be used by cargo trucks and other heavy vehicles, while the existing spans would be limited to cars and lighter vehicles. He noted that the two viaducts are being repaired, improved and retrofitted so they would become “like new roadways.”
The new viaduct will reportedly cost NLEX Corp. some P8 billion.
The Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation, National Economic and Development Authority, and the Toll Regulatory Board have reportedly expressed support for the planned new viaduct.
TRB officials however warned that its construction and completion would require increase in toll fees.
As this developed, Gonzales also appealed to NLEX Corp. to assist the DPWH in the rehabilitation of at least five bridges crossing the expressway, from Bulacan to Pampanga.
“These were built by the national government or local governments. They are not part of NLEX but they make access to the expressway easier and faster,” he said. Among these is one that will replace the two existing flyovers in the City of San Fernando which Gonzales had also discussed some seven years ago with members of the local business chamber. Punto News Team/PR