Fatal Attrition

I ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR “deep apologies,” Secretary Abaya, and grant that you are “profoundly sorry” for your unfortunate “off the cuff” remarks last Monday. But I still don’t think you get it. If you truly believe that the traffic due to the LRT 2 Masinag Extension is  “not fatal” nor “burdensome,” I invite you to move to the East (Marikina, Cainta, Antipolo) and try it.

MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino described what’s coming as madugo, and I can tell you, he knows whereof he speaks. The actual construction hasn’t even begun and already the traffic, it’s a-building, and my well-oiled routine is shot.

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Traffic on reduced-lane Marcos Highway (note fenced portion on the left). photo: inquirer.net

They started fencing off a portion of Marcos Highway about three weeks ago, initially causing a 30-minute wade from the Santolan LRT Station to a little past Felix Avenue. When they began soil testing the following week, that delay suddenly lengthened to two hours. There was no warning. There were no heavy equipment to block our way. The road wasn’t torn up. They merely reduced Marcos Highway by a lane on either side. That was it. It was enough to back up traffic from CVC Supermarket in Cainta to Major Dizon in Marikina, roughly a 6 kilometer stretch.

My husband and I were so unprepared for the traffic that we ran out of gas en route to the boondocks we call home. The trip usually takes 47 minutes from Aurora Boulevard in Quezon City; that night it took us more than two hours. And no, this didn’t happen at rush hour. We left Aurora at past 9 pm.

Thinking it was a fluke, we left at past 9 again the next time, and we got stuck again like the last time. The only alternate route available to us is via Ortigas Avenue extension. Unfortunately, that too is a no-go because of the lengthy portion of Ortigas currently being reblocked and raised as part of the DPWH’s 77 Metro Manila flood-control projects.

To save fuel and our sanity, we recalibrated our routine last week and decided to leave work at 11 pm. It is better to wait out the two hours in relative comfort than to burn our gas budget in the gridlock on Marcos Highway. With our new tactic, we were home in less than an hour.

editorial82214_manilastandardtodaydotcomIt is not yet September. In September, when the construction goes into full swing, it will be worse. I wonder whether 11 pm will be late enough to avoid traffic then. Will we have to leave QC at midnight just so we can get home under an hour? I would rather be resting at home as soon as possible after work, but I know that for the next two years, this is a pipe dream.

I have no quarrel with the infrastructure projects being undertaken, but I do question why they have to be implemented simultaneously, now, in all parts of the NCR, leaving us drivers and commuters – all workaday folk – with no real options. This seems to be a case of pitifully poor planning and horrendous timing, especially because the LRT 2 has been operating since 2003 and this present administration has had five years to implement its extension.

The extension, by the way, has always been in view. We know this because a portion of the elevated span extends beyond the Santolan Station but goes nowhere, like a lonely spinster waiting for a mate. It has been ready since 2003 and will only serve its purpose now.

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The “abang.” LRT 2 elevated span on Marcos Highway ready for extension. photo: d0ctrine.com

I will be 50 years old by the time the LRT 2 extension is completed in the 3rd quarter of 2017, if all goes according to plan. I don’t mind getting older but I sincerely hope this traffic doesn’t age me unnecessarily and sap me of all vitality. It irks me that this could have been avoided had the DOTC had more foresight and begun the extension years ago. For that matter, we would have had alternative routes by now if the DBM had released the budgeted funds earlier so the DPWH could have started its flood control projects sooner. As it is, we in the East are caught in a logjam, as are many equally frustrated residents of the NCR, because of these agencies’ poor planning and coordination.

You are right, Mr. Abaya, traffic does not kill like a double-edged blade or a powerful firearm. It is a blunt weapon that incrementally dulls the senses, exhausts the body, and drains one’s resources until the reservoir is dry. It is a debilitating malady that has broken out on your watch and threatens to attack with fatal attrition. The metropolis is asking, do you have a cure?

 Jesus replied, “…woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”

Luke 11:46

 

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