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A hump at expressway’s endpoint

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ROSARIO, La Union—The 88-kilometer Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx), which the Aquino administration intends to complete in two to three years, will end in a proposed interchange here, but will it be at the doorsteps of the Cordillera, or the Ilocos region?

Baguio City Rep. Bernardo Vergara prefers an exit of the P11-billion TPLEx to be built closer to Kennon Road, so that tourists can go straight to the Cordillera.

Vergara and Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan, chair of the House committee on public works, have been lobbying for an exit near Barangay Saytan, the junction used by motorists to reach Baguio via Kennon, or Marcos Highway.

“The TPLEx project is important for Baguio and Benguet, but its exit must lead to Kennon Road and Marcos Highway,” Cosalan said in a a text message sent to the Inquirer from Switzerland.

Heavy traffic

But former Pangasinan Rep. Mark Cojuangco, wants it past the town proper, Cosalan said. This would mean that “those going to Kennon and Marcos Highway will pass through heavy traffic in Rosario, which is why I and Representative Vergara objected.”

It was during Cojuangco’s term as Pangasinan’s fifth district representative that the TPLEx took shape. The district is now represented by his wife, Kimi, the former mayor of Sison town.

Work on the TPLEx, which extends the North Luzon Expressway and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, started in 2010. The project features eight interchanges in the towns of Victoria, Gerona, Paniqui and Moncada in Tarlac; the towns of Carmen and Pozorrubio and Urdaneta City in Pangasinan; and this town.

According to Vergara, the proposed road link would cut travel time from Metro Manila to Baguio from six to three hours, provided it exits near Kennon.

This would not only help improve Baguio tourism but also stabilize vegetable prices in Metro Manila because it would provide shorter routes for truckers hauling produce from Benguet and Mt. Province, he said.

Access to Ilocos

But Cojuangco said he wanted the Rosario interchange to follow the Manila North Road or the MacArthur Highway which would locate it 7 kilometers from the town center. This would provide a smooth access to San Fernando City in La Union, as well as to other coastal towns of the Ilocos, he said.

“This new route would kill two birds with one stone,” Cojuangco said. It allows the government to widen the TPLEx lanes by 30 meters and grant work crews a more cost-effective way of designing a flyover that would link Kennon Road to the new Rosario interchange, he said.

But the proposed realignment would entail building a single-lane flyover at the new exit point for the Rosario interchange that is dedicated to northbound vehicles traveling to Baguio, he said.

Cojuangco is a son of business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., chair of San Miguel Corp., which has a 25-percent stake in Private Infrastructure Development Corp. (PIDC), the company developing TPLEx.

PIDC is a joint venture between DM Consunji Inc. and DM Wenceslao & Associates Inc.

Vergara believes that Cojuangco’s idea would raise bigger social problems for the government because it would have to expropriate more private lots for the project. He adds that he is banking on President Aquino’s wish to modernize Kennon Road during his term.

Emmanuel Diaz and Alfredo Doctolero, acting district engineers in Pangasinan and La Union, respectively, will submit a report about the officials’ positions to Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson.

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