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Cagayan folk brace for bridge closure on school months

/ 08:56 PM May 28, 2012

Residents of 10 Cagayan Valley towns face heavy traffic jams during the school season when the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) closes the Magapit suspension bridge in Lal-lo town for repairs that could last for four months.

Reynaldo Tamayo, DPWH Region 2 director, said motorists may need to use barges to cross the Cagayan River starting June 8. “We ask the public to please bear with us. Anyway this is for the good of all of us,” he said.

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The DPWH first informed the public about the scheduled road work at the start of the year, drawing outrage from local officials.

The 760-meter Magapit bridge in Magapit village in Lal-lo is a vital link to Cagayan’s western towns and the main access way from Cagayan Valley to the Ilocos region.

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The 34-year-old bridge is believed to be the first suspension bridge in Asia.

Many fear that the bridge’s closure could isolate residents from the towns of Abulug, Allacapan, Ballesteros, Pamplona, Sanchez Mira, Santa Praxedes, Claveria, and Lasam, as well as those from the western villages of Lal-lo and Aparri.

To help ease travel, the DPWH will provide a ferry and a barge to transport people and vehicles across the channel for free, Tamayo said.

“We have allotted P10 million of the total project cost for [the barge service]. Also, we are providing an additional barge upon the request of local officials who have raised concern over the delay that may be caused by transporting a limited number of vehicles at any given time,” he said.

Airing concern that the bridge closure would raise the cost of travel as well as the prices of basic goods, the Cagayan provincial board asked the DPWH to provide larger barges to allow heavy vehicles to cross.

The barge could carry light vehicles but only up to a maximum load of 20 tons, said Provincial Board Member Jessie Usita. “If the river crossing will not allow heavy vehicles, fuel will now have to be transported via Ilocos. This will require additional two hours of travel time. This will definitely mean higher prices for all commodities (sold in the affected towns),” said Usita, who resides in Ballesteros town.

“I have told my two children that this coming opening of classes, they may have to cut their spending and make adjustments on their travel time,” said Rogelio Tanguilan, a rice farmer of Capanickian Norte village in Allacapan town.

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Based on a test-run conducted recently by the DPWH, the ferry will take up to 25 minutes to cross the Cagayan River, carrying vehicles and other goods.

Nestor Marallag, chief of the DPWH Cagayan Valley construction division, said: “The operations of the vessels will be closely monitored by the Marina (Maritime Industry Authority), and one of the safety precautions imposed was for all crossing passengers to wear life vests.”

Marallag said the P100-million repair work would reinforce the bridge deck with carbon fiberglass and replace a pair of 34-meter steel trusses on one of the bridge’s 256-meter spans. Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: Cagayan River, Construction, Department of Public Works and Highways, Education, roads, School, Transportation
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