High toll seen on Kennon if private sector buys road
BAGUIO CITY—Government’s plan to privatize the century-old Kennon Road may result in high toll, which no Baguio and Benguet resident living along the zigzag road could afford, local officials said.
Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan, chair of the House committee on public works and highways, said government is reviewing options to cushion the impact of Kennon Road’s privatization on communities there.
Arnel Paciano Casanova, president of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), offered to undertake the modernization, in light of BCDA’s success in developing the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).
Government plans to connect Kennon Road to the ongoing Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway, which extends from the SCTex, to reduce travel time from Metro Manila to Baguio City from the current six to seven hours to three to four hours, Casanova said.
Although the more than 30-kilometer Kennon Road is operated today as a toll road by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), it also hosts villages stretching from Camp 1 near Rosario, La Union, to Camp 8 here, which could be affected should the private contractor increase toll or when it requires road widening to complete the project, Cosalan said on Friday.
Baguio Rep. Bernardo Vergara, vice chair of the House public works and highways committee, said an option is for DPWH is to exempt residents from paying toll.
BCDA has been commissioned to undertake a new feasibility study for Kennon Road’s upgrading, Cosalan said.
Local officials are also evaluating old geological reports and foreign studies commissioned for Kennon Road, after portions of the road were destroyed by the July 16, 1990, earthquake, he said.
The review will provide officials insight on the extent of repairs Kennon Road will require, in order to determine how high toll would affect the local economy, he said.
“It made sense to grant BCDA first crack at rehabilitating Kennon Road because it is the shortest route to Camp John Hay (which it administers) and it links [the John Hay Special Economic Zone] to [the Poro Point Special Economic Zone] in San Fernando City, La Union. BCDA also offered to modernize Naguilian Road,” Cosalan said.
“But privatization would indeed result in an expensive toll highway, and given the various geological problems of that road, repairing and modernizing Kennon Road won’t be cheap,” he said.
Kennon Road was closed in 1990 after the earthquake that year.
A comprehensive geological and engineering report conducted by a Japanese team concluded in 1991 that government would need P3.2 billion to convert the road all-weather, records of the DPWH, the city government and the National Economic and Development Authority showed.
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