PAMPANGA, Philippines – Subic-bound motorists coming from Balintawak in Quezon City can now cut travel time by 40 minutes, after the tollways unit of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) completed its P650-million ($13.99-million) North Luzon Expressway (NLEX)-Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) integration.
This is in time for the expected surge – as much as 15% – in traffic volume this coming Holy Week.
“Seamless and faster travel can now be experienced at NLEX and SCTEX as toll collection stops are lessened and additional payment options are introduced at the SCTEX,” Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC) president Rodrigo Franco said at the inauguration of the project on Friday, March 19.
The project, which involves the conversion of NLEX and SCTEX toll collection systems into a single system, reduces toll collection stops to two from 5 from Balintawak to Subic and back, and instead of 4 from Balintawak to Tarlac.
“The integration speeds up the queues on toll plazas. Motorists who will drive from Manila to Subic will just have to stop for toll payments at Balintawak and Subic or Tarlac. This will save them up to 40 minutes of travel time,” Franco said.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, who pushed the integration of the two toll systems, said the move “will surely create a faster and more efficient traveling experience in the NLEX and SCTEX especially this coming Holy Week.”
To unify the system of NLEX and SCTEX, MNTC built 7 new toll plazas. These include toll plazas in Tarlac, Subic-Tipo, Sta Ines, and the northbound and southbound sides of Dau and Mabiga.
Motorists will no longer need to stop at the existing NLEX Dau and SCTEX Mabalacat barriers, as these have been converted into pass-through lanes.
By April, the barriers will be removed to provide motorists “a smoother travel.”
The Subic Freeport Expressway (SFEX) toll plaza will also be dismantled to better facilitate the integration of the two expressways, Franco said.
With the NLEX-SCTEX integration, Franco said motorists will now have other payment options when traveling on SCTEX, as it now features electronic toll collection through Easytrip.
For Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) president and CEO Arnel Paciano Casanova, the integration is a “game-changer” that will greatly benefit the motorist in terms of faster travel time and convenience
“It’s the first integration among expressways in the country and we are happy to be part of it and set the bar for others to replicate for the benefit of the public,” Casanova said.
From March 23 to March 27, MNTC will provide free calls and Wi-Fi, free basic mechanic services and first aid treatments in designated locations along NLEX, SCTEX, and CAVITEX.
From March 18 to 28, the company will deploy ambulant toll tellers as well as additional patrol vehicles and enforcers to assist motorists during the Holy Week rush. Road works will be temporarily suspended.
“With these two programs in place, there will be time and fuel savings for the 200,000 vehicles that use the NLEX and the over 30,000 vehicles that ply the SCTEX daily,” MNTC said.
TPLEX to be linked
Franco said during the inauguration that “the next natural step” for the toll operator is to integrate San Miguel Corporation’s Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) to NLEX and SCTEX.
“We will try to talk to the concessionaire and operator to see if integration is possible, but it is not a simple matter. It must be studied carefully,” he added.
TPLEX is seen to cut travel period between Manila and Baguio to two to 3 hours from the current hours.
In October, the MPIC tollways unit took over the management, operation, and maintenance of SCTEX. The group will spend over P1.5 billion ($32.29-million) for its upgrade in the next few years. – Rappler.com
US$1 = P46.45