24-km crawl on SLEx adds to agony of Metro commute
For the second day on Thursday, residents of communities in south Metro Manila and beyond were caught in a carmageddon along the northbound lane of South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) that backed up vehicular traffic from Alabang to the Eton exit in Sta. Rosa, Laguna—a distance of 24 kilometers.
The sea of crawling or nonmoving vehicles frayed nerves, caused commuters to report for work or school late, or worse, missed appointments or flights. Not to mention needlessly burning gasoline or diesel.
The reason: the indefinite closure of Skyway at-grade’s outermost lane right after the Alabang Viaduct in Muntinlupa City due to the construction of pylons for the 6-km extension of the Skyway from Barangay Cupang to Susana Heights.
At least 370,000 vehicles use SLEx every day, while around 196,000 ply Skyway daily, according to data from the Toll Regulatory Board as of June.
One of the tens of thousands of people affected by the horrendous vehicular congestion is Roy, who spent fours hours on Thursday to get to his office in Makati from General Mariano Alvarez, Cavite province.
He had to wait for an hour for a bus at the Carmona, Cavite, toll gate of SLEx because buses had a long turnaround as a result of the gridlock. He then spent three more hours on his commute to get to work.
“I left home at 7:30 a.m. and reached the office at 11:34 a.m.,” he said. Normally, his trip to the office takes only one and a half hours.
Sleeping in car
Mikkah Factor left her home in San Pedro, Laguna, before 8 a.m., and arrived in Susana, Alabang, at 9 a.m.
“I slept in our car and when I woke up, it was already 10:30 a.m. and I’m still in Alabang, stuck in traffic on SLEx,” Factor said.
“Usually, when I leave our house at 8 a.m., I arrive in Magallanes, Makati, where I wait for a jeepney ride to work, at 10 a.m. or sometimes before 10,” she said. “But due to that extreme traffic, I got at Magallanes at 11:30.”
As expected, social media was flooded with complaints from motorists and commuters who missed their classes, deemed absent on work or turned up hours late on their appointments.
A netizen claimed it took him three hours to clear the stretch of Mamplasan in Biñan, Laguna to Makati. The 30-km ride takes only around an hour on a normal day.
“SLEx shouldn’t be called an expressway anymore,” she said.
Slow Luzon Expressway
Others resorted to giving SLEx alternative names, such as “Sobrang Lalang Expressway” or “Slow Luzon Expressway.”
The carmageddon came as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) reported that Manila was now the most congested natural city—those with a population of at least 5 million—out of 278 cities in Asia.
Commuters in Manila, according to the ADB report, could not even take public transport for a substantial portion of their commute, and travel by public transport takes three times as long compared with using private cars.
The ADB report based its findings on a random sampling of hot spots in each city and on Google Maps to determine the travel time between these locations during peak hours.
South Road, Baybayin
Cars swarmed on Manila South Road as well as Muntinlupa’s Baybayin (network of streets by Laguna de Bay) as an alternative to SLEx, the main artery connecting Calabarzon and Metro Manila.
In a tweet on Thursday, Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon said the SLEx gridlock spilled over to Manila South Road, the city’s national road that runs almost parallel to SLEx and connects to the expressway in Alabang and Susana.
Stop-and-go, zipper lane
“We are under threat of shutting down,” Biazon said.
San Miguel Corp. (SMC) Tollways—operator of SLEx and Skyway—admitted that the ongoing construction project was to blame for the carmageddon, which persisted day and night, even on nonpeak hours.
For the meantime, a “stop-and-go” traffic scheme would be implemented on the East Service Road near Kawasaki Motors Corp. in Cupang for motorists to pass through.
A southbound SLEx zipper lane was also opened for counterflow.
SMC Tollways issued an apology. “When this project is finished, traffic flow will be faster and more comfortable. We are doing everything we can in order for the construction to be finished at an earlier time,” it said.
But it also asked motorists “to plan their trips … [suggesting] an hour or two lead time.”
The Inquirer reached the Toll Regulatory Board for comment, but it had yet to respond.
The construction of the Skyway Extension project in Muntinlupa began in August.
Completed by end 2020
Once completed by December 2020, the P10-billion project would extend the elevated expressway from Cupang to Susana Heights at Barangay Tunasan, also in Metro Manila’s southernmost city.
SLEx is a 51-km expressway that connects Metro Manila to the provinces of Calabarzon region. It starts on Quirino Avenue in Manila’s Paco district and goes all the way south to Santo Tomas, Batangas.
Skyway will be one of the longest flyovers in the world with a total length of 31 km when it opens its Stage 3, from Buendia in Makati to Balintawak in Quezon City, connecting with the North Luzon Expressway.
Skyway is also connected to the 11-km Naia Expressway, which leads to the terminals of Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay and Entertainment City in Parañaque.
Stage 1 of Skyway started in 1995, involving the construction of a six-lane, 10-km elevated expressway from Buendia to Bicutan in Taguig.
Stage 2 started in 2009, extending Skyway for 7 km from Bicutan to Alabang. —WITH A REPORT FROM KRIXIA SUBINGSUBING
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