Keep off Edsa: Asean VIP lanes slow traffic
Most of the world leaders attending the 31st Association of Southeast Nations (Asean) summit have yet to arrive in the capital and yet traffic along major thoroughfares, especially Edsa, already slowed to a crawl on Saturday as transport authorities prepared VIP lanes for the international delegates.
Organizers have earlier warned about the gridlock, even urging Metro Manila residents to leave town this weekend and enjoy the nonworking holidays up to Wednesday, Nov. 15.
For much of Saturday, traffic along the entire northbound stretch of Edsa, from Mall of Asia to Balintawak, was at a near-standstill. On the southbound lane, traffic was slow-moving from Balintawak to Taft Avenue.
The highway’s two innermost lanes in both directions were marked with orange barriers to serve as Asean-exclusive lanes, a measure last implemented when the country hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in 2015.
Motorists were barred from using the exclusive lanes around noon, in preparation for the arrival of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
The exclusive lanes were closed off for their advance parties. The convoy carrying the Cambodian leader going to Makati passed through around 8:40 p.m.
Among those stuck in Edsa was Phoebe Tolete, who took almost three hours to reach Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City from SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City, a distance she would normally cover in 30 to 45 minutes.
On Twitter, the netizen @skylife23 said it took her two hours to reach Balintawak from Monumento, a distance of just 2.5 kilometers.
Bong Nebrija, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) operations supervisor, said that due to the difficulty of funneling out cars that were allowed to use the exclusive lanes for a few hours on Saturday, the lanes would be closed to general traffic for the entire duration of the summit.
He said there would be no changes in the “stop-and-go” traffic scheme that would be implemented whenever a VIP convoy needed to pass through Edsa.
Nebrija noted that despite the MMDA’s “relentless public information campaign,” many motorists still failed to heed their appeal not to use Edsa especially this weekend when the Asean delegations were scheduled to arrive.
“We’ve been appealing for the past weeks for them to take alternative routes and, as much as possible, avoid Edsa, both directions. Help us decongest (Edsa) by using the Scout Area (in Quezon City) in the west corridor and C5 Road in the east corridor,” Nebrija said.
Emmanuel Miro, the Asean traffic management commander, suggested that motorists also take advantage of the 17 Mabuhay Lanes, a network of alternative routes for those who wish to avoid Edsa during the Christmas season, when vehicle volume swells by about 20 percent.
The number coding scheme will remain in effect on Nov. 13, 14 and 15 despite these dates being declared special nonworking days in Metro Manila, Bulacan and Pampanga.
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