Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Bridge construction can start immediately BUT NO NEED to close the existing bridge

Construction of the bridge can start as planned, but there is no need to close the existing bridge. The contractor should be competent enough to build the new bridge using regular technique such as using barges/pontoons for construction materials and floating cranes for heavy lifts. To use the bridge as crane platform and material storage can only benefit the contractor but will definitely hurt the city.
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Delaying the construction of a bridge connecting this free port to the neighboring city of Olongapo will be more damaging to local business establishments than if the project is not implemented right away.

This was clarified by Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Administrator Armand Arreza after local businessmen proposed that the rehabilitation of the Kalaklan Bridge project be rescheduled to allow businesses to cash in on the peak tourist season this summer.

The SBMA said earlier it will close the bridge this month to make way for the construction of a P200-million replacement with a covered walkway.

According to Arreza, building a new bridge to replace the crucial Kalaklan span that leads to the Zambales highway would only take a year.

“Hence, losing out on the tourism peak season this summer would not be too much of a sacrifice,” he said. “If you delay the project, however, you’d lose out on both the Christmas season and the summer season next year.”

Arreza made the statement after members of the Metro-Olongapo Chamber of Commerce Inc. expressed fears that closing the Kalaklan Bridge would disrupt business in the city and lead to losses among local establishments.

They pointed out that most of the visitors in the summer months are day tourists who would lose much time making detours due to the anticipated heavy volume of traffic during the bridge construction.

“If the average traveling time from Manila to Subic is four hours, and another four hours would have to be spent going back, visitors will have no more time left to enjoy their day here. If that is the case, tourists will not come here anymore,” MOCCI members said in a recent dialogue with the SBMA.

“If you really need to close down the bridge, do it after the summer season,” the Olongapo businessmen suggested.

However, Arreza said the project has to be implemented as scheduled because the bridge, which is about 50 years old, has developed cracks and has been found to be “structurally weakened.”

Construction of a new bridge in Kalaklan will also jumpstart the SBMA program to expand the physical boundaries of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone and spread economic development to nearby communities, he added.

According to Joselito Bakuteza, head of the SBMA PMO, about 2,500 light vehicles and some 300 pedestrians, mostly workers, pass through the Kalaklan Bridge everyday.

He admitted that when the bridge closes to all vehicles and pedestrians starting February 15 and March 1, respectively, the rerouting to Olongapo will cause temporary heavy traffic in some main roads of the city, as well as inside the Freeport, especially during rush hours.

However, Bakuteza pointed out that the public may still use the free port gates in Rizal Avenue and 14th Street to prevent heavy traffic buildup.

Earlier, Olongapo City Mayor James Gordon Jr. said the city government will put into effect a truck ban from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. from Monday to Friday to help ease the traffic during the bridge closure. By FRANCO G. REGALA - Manila Bulletin

In a recent meeting between SBMA and Olongapo heads, Mayor Gordon insisted that the bridge can remain open to light vehicle traffic, a regular safety inspection will be conducted to ensure that no untoward incident will happen during the construction.

SBMA in turn will allocate additionsl funding since the contractor will not anymore be able to take advantage of the existing bridge during construction.

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