A task force has been formed by the Philippine Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to speed up the acquisition of vital right-of-way (ROW) needed to complete Segment 10, the last portion of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Harbor Link, by the end of the year.

Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said DPWH is coordinating with Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC) to address ROW issues prolonging the completion of the project.

The 5.65-kilometer elevated roadway can only be finished if the government can deliver the ROW, MNTC president and chief executive officer Rodrigo Franco said. He said the remaining ROW of 700 meters in Valenzuela and one kilometer in Caloocan is expected to be delivered by the second quarter. Once the project is completed by yearend, Segment 10 will be opened by January 2018.

Segment 10, with a total cost of P10.5 billion, will begin from MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela and proceed to Malabon and C3 Road in Caloocan, extending to Road 10.

It will connect to Segment 9, a 2.42-kilometer expressway, which opened in March 2015 and connects NLEX from the Smart Connect Interchange to MacArthur Highway in Karuhatan, Valenzuela City.

Once Segment 10 is opened, cargo trucks need only 10 minutes to reach NLEX from the port compared to the usual one-hour travel through the busy streets of Metro Manila. Since NLEX is not covered by the truck ban, trucks will have 24/7 access from the ports to their destinations to the North and South.

More expressway lanes coming

Aside from completing Segment 10, MNTC has also lined up new NLEX projects, which include 64 new lane-kilometers in Bulacan and Pampanga, the projects envisioned to support the government’s big-ticket infrastructure projects, which include building roads, bridges, railways, and improving airports to spur development and ease traffic congestion in the country.

The NLEX concessionaire recently announced that the P2.6-billion project involving these new expressway lanes will help improve travel convenience and promote growth of local businesses in the Central Luzon region.

When the new expressway lanes are completed, expressway road capacity along the stretch from Sta. Rita in Bulacan to San Fernando in Pampanga will be expanded from the existing two-by-two lanes to three-by-three lanes in each direction, giving motorists a faster, more seamless travel.

The new projects also include expressway lanes to be built on both sides of the five-kilometer-long Candaba Viaduct linking Pampanga and Bulacan. When completed, the road capacity of the viaduct will be expanded for the first time since it was constructed in the ’70s.

“The new expressway projects support the government’s mission to boost socio-economic growth with infrastructures that facilitate more efficient and faster transport of good and services within Central Luzon,” Franco said, adding that, once inaugurated, the new expressway lanes will not only provide faster, safer and more convenient travel to motorists, but will also decongest traffic in the urban areas.

The tollways firm said the opening of the new expressway lanes will provide motorists with easier access to the Clark International Airport and the Clark Green City, the 9,450-hectare development project located within the Clark Special Economic Zone in Tarlac.

Earlier, MNTC also completed a new two-by-two, four-kilometer expressway in the Mabalacat City portion of the NLEX, including two new bridges. This new project, which was completed in October last year, will be segregating northbound and southbound motorists along separate carriageways to promote road safety.

MNTC is awaiting government approvals, through the Toll Regulatory Board, before the new expressway lanes are opened to motorists.

Additionally, MNTC had also installed 800 expressway-standard LED road lighting between the Balagtas section in Bulacan all the way to San Fernando City. It will also light up an additional 33 kilometers along NLEX to improve the safety of motorists.

Posts by Liza Almonte.