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Hike in toll on Kennon Road looms

An increase in toll on Kennon Road looms as the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) prepares to take over the road and sell it to the private sector.

“If you look at Kennon Road, it takes a lot of money to maintain that,” said Arnel Casanova, the BCDA president.

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“That’s year-round because of landslides. We need money for that,” Casanova said.

He said the plan to hand over maintenance and supervision of Kennon Road to the private sector was proposed by Baguio Rep. Bernardo Vergara and supported by Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson.

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Kennon, said Casanova, would be connected to the proposed Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx).

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) currently collects P15 per vehicle passing through Kennon.

Like the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx), BCDA designed the TPLEx to link the Camp John Hay Special Economic Zone here and the Poro Point Special Economic Zone in San Fernando City, La Union, which the agency administers, said Casanova.

“[TPLEx] will be connecting two ecozones the same way we did for Clark Freeport and Subic Bay Freeport with the construction of SCTEx,” said BCDA chair Felicito Payumo in a statement.

Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan, chair of the House committee on public works and highways, said he and  Vergara endorsed the zigzag road modernization project to BCDA last year.

Built in 1905, the 34-kilometer Kennon Road has been beset each year by rock slides, particularly during the rainy season, which cost the DPWH millions of pesos for repairs and maintenance, government records showed.

Historical accounts describe the construction of Kennon Road, then known as Benguet Road, as the most expensive undertaking by the American colonial government, in the same period when it designed and built Baguio City.

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Kennon Road was heavily damaged by the July 1990 earthquake and was closed to traffic for major repairs. When it reopened, the DPWH only allowed light vehicles to pass through the road.

Buses and trucks are barred from using the road, which is the shortest route to the city.

Vergara, the vice chair of the House committee on public works and highways, said he proposed that government build a series of bridges and viaducts on Kennon Road’s landslide prone areas.

He said new technology can afford the construction of bridges to skirt away from sections of the road that are prone to erosion.

“This would be more environment friendly because we will no longer need to dig new tunnels,” Vergara said.

But Vergara expressed reservations about Casanova’s plan to turn Kennon Road into a privately run toll road.

Vergara said privatizing the road and allowing the contractor to collect toll was not what the city government intended. “It may even be illegal,” he said. With Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: Baguio Rep. Bernardo Vergara, Bases Conversion and Development Authority, BCDA, Kennon Road, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson
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