Vast, costly waste
TO THE QUICK - Jerry S. Tundag (The Freeman) - November 18, 2019 - 12:00am

This is the second time I have written about the subject and I will probably keep writing about it until the proper authorities start addressing the issue. I am talking about the Duterte administration's aggressive “Build, build, build” program in which new roads and bridges are being built and existing ones improved and widened.

And it goes without saying that the massive undertaking, expected to go on at least until the end of Duterte's term in 2022, is costing all taxpayers a hefty sum of money running into the hundreds of billions. My issue, which I think should be the issue of everyone, is that the finished portions of the program --and they are now quite extensive-- are not being used according to the purpose for which they have been undertaken at great cost.

Many long, long stretches of now spanking new well-paved four-lane roads that used to be narrow and dilapidated two-lane roads are being used as if they were still just that --narrow and dilapidated two-lane roads. Vehicular traffic still takes the two inner lanes, leaving idle and unused the two outer lanes that have been built to facilitate ease and safety on the road.

As generally accepted in most places, the two outer lanes that go either way are supposed to be for slow-moving traffic or for those that need to make frequent stops such as passenger buses, jeepneys, and tricycles. But wonder of wonders, nobody, especially the three aforementioned vehicle types, seems eager or willing to use the new, well-paved, outer lanes. Everybody is sticking to the inner lanes as if the roads have not been widened.

What makes it even more unsettling is that the slow-moving vehicles that are sticking to the inner lanes would almost always never give way to faster moving vehicles that need to overtake. In fact, most drivers of these slow-moving vehicles, mostly on board motorcycles or tricycles, get angry when signaled to move over to the outer lane. This forces speedier vehicles to sometimes take the risky maneuver of overtaking from the right.

This situation cannot and must not be allowed to continue. The authorities have to step in. Ignoring the situation only promotes danger on the road, either from accidents or from violent altercations. Besides, we need to recover the immense cost of the now-beautiful roads by actually using them. But the utilization needs to happen fast or else another situation may arise from which we can never recover what we shall have lost forever.

In many stretches of our now wide and beautiful provincial highways, people are starting to appropriate the unused brand-new concrete outer lanes for their own personal, non-traffic use. The new outer lanes that motorists refuse to use are now being utilized for a wide variety of purposes --as areas for drying rice and copra, as convenient dining areas for food stalls, and as parking areas for vulcanizing, repair and car wash shops.

Local governments and national agencies such as the Land Transportation Office and the Philippine National Police, particularly its highway patrol units, need to educate motorists on the proper use of roads and highways and, after a time, to start making arrests and apprehensions. For what a vast and costly waste it would be if we just spend billions upon billions on new roads and then just give them up to disuse and misuse.

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