Will Cebu traffic get better or worse?

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

One of the "must do" projects of the Duterte administration is to improve the traffic situation in Metro Manila. As promised, it has to do it as fast as possible in six months or a year to have an impact on the mandate of the new government.

Emergency powers have been proposed. And Senator Franklin Drilon filed a Senate bill precisely to give the President emergency powers to cut and/or remove obstructions in the implementations of all traffic improvements in Metro Manila.

The proposed Senate Bill did include other major cities, Cebu being one of them, but in all likelihood the concentration will be in Metro Manila due to the immediacy and gravity of the problem. Metro Cebu already has a worsening traffic problem that average speed in the major roads are now at 11 km per hour, which is still better than the five km per hour EDSA traffic. But the situation has to be addressed before it gets worse.

As Chairman of CITOM/CCTO for the past two years, I met with newly elected Mayor Tomas Osmeña just before he assumed office to give him a status report on the policy recommendations and the status of the proposed projects of the CITOM Board in the last two years. While the CITOM Board does not have implementing authority, and have to rely on the different city departments and the DPWH Cebu City to move the projects, the expertise, combined experience, and competence of the Board members gives it the moral and professional suasion to push for these traffic solutions. It's coordinating function of getting the various government agencies, LTO, LTFRB, city offices, and private sector entities help greatly in getting the programs and projects going.

For immediate implementation these are our recommendations to the Mayor: 1. He has to appoint immediately the CITOM Executive Director as he is the person that will implement the CITOM Board recommendations; 2. We have to finalize the designation and markings of all pedestrian lanes so we can enforce crossings only in pedestrian lanes; 3. We have to proceed with the flaring of major intersections and the construction of loading and unloading bays in all major roads. The area shave already been identified with the provincial government's consent on the affected provincial road and the DPWH agreeing to construct in the areas located in the national roads; those in private properties will have to be convinced; 4. Continue with the recovery of encroached city roads, particularly the F. Ramos Extension which will be a parallel road to Juana Osmeña Street, that will connect to Escario Street. There are other roads that have also been identified; 5. Proceed with the proposed Guadalupe to Lahug Road as a parallel road to Escario Street (Mayor Osmeña has pointed out the problem of this project due to the steepness of the approaches of the proposed bridge to cross the river and he has proposed an alternative river crossing.)

For the medium term we recommended: 1. Widening of the BANTAL road from the Archbishop Reyes flyover to Talamban. DPWH already have the plans for this project and 70 percent of the lot owners are amenable to the road right of way acquisitions needed. The DPWH have included a multiyear budget for this project for the next four years; 2. Widening of all roads affected by the BRT. This overlaps the BANTAL road widening which is good since the BRT road widening projects are already covered by the BRT funding; 3. Signalization/traffic lights improvement. We have included this as a BRT component as this is most needed by the BRT. The 25 year old Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System or SCATS which have serve us very well, deserves for an upgrade; 4. CCTV cameras in all intersections for centralized real-time traffic monitoring and management. This will also be useful for the "no contact apprehension system" for traffic violations which will be implemented in cooperation with LTO. This will also be needed by the BRT and will be useful for crime-monitoring and prevention. And also for disaster-monitoring and management; 5. There should be additional access roads to and from the SRP road to improve egress and ingress especially during big events when many vehicles have to use the SRP road.

For the long term we recommended: 1. Cable car transport for the mountain barangays. This is already in existence in some Latin American cities with a terrain similar to Cebu City. Due to the gravity pull on the downhill ride, very little power is required and this is a project that will attract private sector joint venture; 2. Subway or monorail system for certain sections of the city. Two lines from North to South and East to West might be feasible by identifying heavy commuter areas with a central and terminal stations that will also double as commercial areas or malls.

Mayor Osmeña is very aware and knowledgeable of the Cebu City traffic problem including his concept that roads should not follow development but that development should follow the roads, and his initiative of redirecting the flow of the city's development. I have relayed these ideas to the CITOM Board members and we will surely consider them on our deliberations.

In the meantime, in behalf of the Board of Directors and the different government offices that work with us, we express our gratitude to the previous city administration and welcome the new city administration.

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