Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, February 09, 2009

The longest expressway

At first glance, the opening of the Clark North Interchange of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway late last year may seem simple and uneventful. But when you consider its significance to the mobility of people and the transport of goods and materials, you will appreciate that even a five-kilometer stretch can make a big difference in the economic and social life of people and communities.

The expressway, a 94-km highway connecting Subic and Clark, is a watershed infrastructure project intended as a backbone of development in the once lahar-ravaged Central Luzon, as well as North Luzon. Thanks to this impressive road network, motorists and commuters can travel to that part of the country with greater speed and safety. There is never a dull moment during the 40-minute trip through this four-lane road artery because of the breathtaking scenery along the way. Going to and from Subic, you marvel at the sight of layers of mountains in bold or misty blue, of lush forests, fruit orchards, unspoiled rivers and farmers tilling their vegetable plots or tending to their carabaos. Motorists who negotiated the expressway for the first time could not but feel a sense of pride as a Filipino, awe-struck by this masterwork of engineering.

Despite the threat of economic recession, business in the Clark and Subic economic zones is robust as ever. The vision to transform Central Luzon into a leading logistics hub in Asia is being translated into reality as the government builds the necessary infrastructure, the most essential of which is a safe and reliable, world-class road network.

Locators, investors and customers at the Clark special economic zone are most pleased at the completion of the Clark North Interchange. Prior to the opening of this vital adjunct of the SCTEx, they had to cope with the daily ordeal of heavy traffic in that portion of the superhighway.

Sometime this March, the Clark South Interchange will also open. This road link leads directly to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, thus making it easier for travelers from North Luzon and from Clark or Subic to catch their domestic or international flight.

Two more interchanges—in Floridablanca and Porac—are still under construction. When completed, the southern part of Pampanga will be connected to the national mainstream via the SCTEx.

Reputed to be the country’s longest expressway, the SCTEx was officially opened to motorists in April last year. The four-lane expressway was built at a cost of P27.4 billion which was sourced from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

It has 34 bridges, four of them major ones spanning 300 meters long or more. Overall, the existing interchanges—including those in Dinalupihan, Bataan, Subic Tipo Tipo in Zambales, Luisita in Tarlac and Tarlac City— have encouraged people to travel to the Subic-Clark areas through the new expressway with its many access points. Even motorists and businessmen from Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Cagayan, Pangasinan, La Union, Baguio City and Benguet in the North have been greatly benefited, having seen for themselves how fast and convenient travel via this route has become.

Even cynics concede that the Bases Conversion Development Authority, led by its president and chief operating officer Narciso Abaya, has done its job of overseeing the construction of the SCTEx. And the expressway is living to the high expectation of improving accessibility to the Subic-Clark areas in line with the ambitious plan to transform Central Luzon into a super region that would lure foreign and local investors and integrate all economic activities in the two special economic zones and the Central Techno Park in Tarlac. Indeed, the expressway has not only changed the landscape of this flourishing and resource-rich region but also quickened the pace of industry and trade there. The end-result: more jobs and income-generating activities and a brighter future for the people.

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