NLEX Corp., a unit of Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), said on Wednesday that its P7.89-billion Candaba Third Viaduct project in Pampanga is expected to be operational by November next year.
“Today together with our reliable contractor, Leighton, along with expert project consultants we aim to give our motorists immediate relief at the soonest possible time,” said NLEX Corp. President and General Manager Jose Luigi L. Bautista at the project’s groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday.
“We have reduced the completion period from the original 24 months to 22 months or even 21 months, so by November next year, that is when we envision this road to be operational,” he added.
The project is being implemented by NLEX Corp. and Hong Kong-based Leighton Asia and is covered by the NLEX concession deal.
The new road will be constructed between the two existing viaducts, thereby increasing the capacity of the Candaba viaduct to three lanes with inner and outer shoulders in each direction.
“This project will not only increase the capacity of the 5-km Candaba Viaduct but will ultimately improve safety and convenience of the motorists, as well as aid in the acceleration and growth of trade and commerce in Central Luzon,” said MPTC President and Chief Executive Rogelio L. Singson.
The Candaba Third Viaduct will have piers at every 20 meters, supported by two columns and two bored piles. This design is said to strengthen the structure, considering the swampy condition of the ground beneath the viaduct.
“This new mobility project will offer easy journeys and make travel safer for the public traveling between Metro Manila and Central and North Luzon as there will be a new structure to augment the existing ones and will safely allow the speed limit to increase to 60 to 80 kilometers per hour (km/h) from the current 40 to 60 km/h,” said Mr. Bautista.
Upon completion, class 3 vehicles or large trucks will be directed to the new viaduct to relieve the outer lanes of heavy loads.
The total project cost of P7.89 billion includes the construction cost, estimated between P6.1 billion to P6.2 billion, as well as the overhead and financing costs, according to Mr. Bautista.
On June 10, the Toll Regulatory Board approved the addition of P7 to the rate for the open system and 36 centavos per kilometer for the closed system, starting June 15.
Under the new toll fee matrix, motorists traveling within the open system will pay an additional P7 for class 1 vehicles (regular cars and SUVs), P17 for class 2 (buses and small trucks), and P19 for class 3 (large trucks).
Meanwhile, travelers along NLEX within the closed system, covering Marilao to Mabalacat City, Pampanga, will pay an additional P26 for class 1 vehicles, P65 for class 2, and P77 for class 3.
However, Mr. Singson clarified that the additional toll fees will not be used and are not related to the third viaduct project.
“We cannot advance the cost. We cannot go to the regulator and say ‘This is the project we will do.’ The increase that we were after, which is 11%, is composed of a peso that came from 2012 adjustment and the six pesos that came from 2018 and 2020 application,” he said in Filipino.
“So, this does not involve the new project. When we finish the project, then that will be the time that we will apply for it,” he added.
The new rates are part of the authorized periodic adjustments for NLEX, which were due in 2012, 2014, 2018, and 2020. These rates cover the last tranche of the 2012 and 2014 adjustments, as well as half of the 2018 and 2020 adjustments.
Mr. Bautista said that the construction of the third viaduct is necessary to assist the current aging structures, which have been operating at a reduced capacity.
“These bridges have been serving the motoring public who travel between Metro Manila and the provinces in Central and North Luzon for over 50 years,” he said. “We are also eyeing, in the future, to replace the north and the south structures,” he added.
Full-load trucks have been traversing the existing structures which are already operating more than its useful life, said Mr. Singson.
“What is going to happen is we need to put an additional viaduct in between. So, easily an additional 30%, if not 50%, capacity because we can now put up additional zipper lanes,” he said.
“What is important is for us to be able to complete the third viaduct in between so that we can fix the [existing viaducts],” he added.
MPTC is the tollways unit of Metro Pacific Investments Corp., one of three key Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being Philex Mining Corp. and PLDT, Inc.
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