Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, February 25, 2008

Subic-Clark-Tarlac tollway opens in April

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga – The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) has finally set the inauguration of the 93.7-kilometer Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTex) – considered the country’s longest – by the end of April.

"Preparations are underway for the forthcoming formal opening of the SCTex as workers are about to wind up the construction," the BCDA, which oversees the project, said in a statement.

"Work is already in the ‘punch listing’ or final stage," it added. "The project will be completed in time for (its) scheduled inauguration in end-April this year."

SCTex project manager Robert Gervacio said only about six percent of the total project, consisting of miscellaneous structures such as guardrails and fences as well as rectification works, "remains to be done."

"We are definitely on track for the April opening," Gervacio said.

Initially, the project, largely funded by a loan from the Japan Bank of International Cooperation, was announced for completion in 2007. Last December, BCDA officials, however, said the project would be finished by mid-March this year.

"On orders of President Arroyo, three more interchanges were constructed, bringing the total to 11 interchanges. The additional interchanges are the Clark South Interchange, the Porac Interchange in Dolores and the Basa Interchange in Floridablanca," the BCDA said.

According to the BCDA, the four-lane divided tollway not only connects two of the country’s most important economic zones in Central Luzon – the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales and the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga – but also provides "a very convenient access to the emerging economic centers further north in Tarlac and up to La Union province."

No one from the BCDA could immediately be reached to clarify how much the project actually costs now although it was earlier said to be P376.7 million.

This, as the Hazama-Taisei-Nippon Steel Joint Venture (HTN), the contractor for the 43.27-kilometer Phase 2 of the project stretching from Clark to Tarlac, last year demanded an additional P200 million from the BCDA for "acceleration cost" and another P100 million for "variations and changes" in the project.

SCTex’s Phase 1, stretching 50.5 kilometers from Clark to Subic Freeport, is being completed by Kajima-Obayashi-JFE Engineering and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.

The President gave the two companies in July last year a four-month extension to finish the project up to March this year at no cost to the Philippine government.

The SCTex has 34 bridges, four of them "major" spans (300 meters or more), which are now undergoing final inspection.

The four major bridges are the Sacobia-Bamban Bridge, the longest at 1.16 kilometers; the 318-meter Gumain Bridge, the 720-meter Pasig-Potrero River Bridge, and the 400-meter Porac River Bridge.

The BCDA said the SCTex is expected to dramatically cut travel time between Clark and Subic to only 40 minutes, and between Clark and Tarlac to 30 minutes.

"At more than 93 kilometers, the SCTex will be the country’s longest tollway," it said.

Earlier, the BCDA said a toll rate of P2.49 per kilometer is likely to be adopted at the SCTex once it is approved by the Toll Regulatory Board.

The bidding for the management and operations of SCTex is expected to start by the middle of this year.

For a six-month interim period, however, the consortium of the First Philippine Tollways, Tollways Management and Aegis will run the SCTex. By DING CERVANTES - The Philippine Star

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