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MANILA, Philippines – The recently approved Dalton Pass East Alignment Road has the ambitious goal of improving connectivity between Cagayan Valley and the Cordillera Autonomous Region through a 23-kilometer alternative road that will bypass the existing Dalton Pass.
The current Dalton Pass – or Balete Pass – is a decades-old road that winds through the mountains between Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya. It also acts as the only arterial road connecting northern Luzon to Metro Manila. A study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) found that traffic volume has already reached capacity in 2019.
Over the years, Dalton Pass has been plagued by road closures due to landslides and earthquakes, isolating provinces for stretches of time. JICA noted that the Dalton Pass is “extremely vulnerable” to natural disasters and is often shut down by earthquakes and typhoons.
The mountain road, with its hairpin curves and steep gradient, was also found to be “extremely difficult” to traverse. In 2017, for instance, 541 accidents happened along Dalton Pass, with 21 of them being fatal and 118 being severe.
A new road
According to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the new Dalton Pass East Alternative Road will “address the constant dilemma of frequent closure of the existing Dalton Pass due to natural disasters faced by travelers between Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya to the Cagayan Valley Region.”
The proposed project will serve as an alternative road to Dalton Pass, decongesting it while also connecting San Jose, Nueva Ecija, and Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya. It will be made up of a four-lane 23.5-kilometer road with a twin-tube long-distance tunnel and 10 bridges.
The National Economic and Development Authority announced the approval of the project, which is part of its list of infrastructure flagship projects, on December 14. The government expects the new road to be crucial in promoting transport and economic activity in the regions, especially with Cagayan Valley being a major producer of rice and corn.
The P64.7-billion road project, expected to be completed by 2031, is co-planned and financed by the JICA, one of the country’s historical providers of official development assistance. The DPWH also said it hopes to leverage “Japanese technologies and experiences” in the excavation and construction of mountain tunnels, as well as for communication, ventilations systems, and operation and maintenance.
The preparatory survey for the Dalton Pass East Alternative Road began in October 2019 while discussions with JICA’s pre-appraisal team concluded on July 3, 2023. Civil works for the project is scheduled to last from 2026 to 2031. – Rappler.com