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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, November 10, 2017
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Preparing to flyover


The flyover at the intersection of Araneta and Magsaysay streets, the one being built right in front of the Visayan DAILY STAR building, is looking like it is nearing completion. The prefabricated metal sections have been erected and work is being done on the concrete approach ramps as we speak. Bacolod Congressman Greg Gasataya announced last month that completion is expected by November 30, and even if his estimate is off by a couple of weeks I reckon that the flyover should be open to the public before the New Year rolls in.

Getting the flyover actually built took a while. The structure was supposed to have been acquired two presidents ago, during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The country got a set of prefab flyovers, Bacolod won 2, and put up one in Bata. The other flyover languished in a warehouse while local politicos squabbled over where to put it. Even this year, after the site was finally chosen and construction started, many locals still question the wisdom of the chosen location.

The squabbling and the arm chair civil engineering over the flyover's location should be over because Bacolod's second flyover is already nearing completion, but as the structure starts to take shape and I start to see the flow of traffic in the affected area, I am starting to have questions with regards to the government's ability to take advantage of this infrastructure to make a significant improvement in the flow of traffic there.

For those who do not frequent the area, the location of this new flyover could become a headache instead of an improvement if the government does its usual bit when infrastructure is involved where they consider the job done once the project is marked complete, the ribbon cut, and the ceremonial ride through dispensed with.

This flyover could be a doozy for local government if they think they can treat this like the one at Bata. To explain my concerns, take a walk with me along Araneta Street from the Planta Hotel all the way to the Goldenfields Commercial Center.

From north to south, off the top of my bald head, allow me to enumerate the establishments we will encounter on our way to the flyover and beyond. There is the Planta Hotel, lechonan, the Gaisano City mall, Grand Regal Hotel, McDonalds, a commercial building, a busy talipapa, a church, various tire stores, your Visayan DAILY STAR, a Pure Gold grocery, a Mitsubishi dealership, and a rising Suzuki dealership. At this point we reach the intersection of Araneta and Magsaysay streets. After that, there would be a gasoline station, the Sugar Regulatory Administration, the Sugarland Hotel, several automobile dealerships and car repair shops, before we reach the new City Mall at Goldenfields. That's 3 hotels, 2 shopping malls, a handful of car dealerships, another handful of tire and repair shops, a talipapa and a gaggle of commercial buildings in the immediate area of the flyover.

If you come to really think about it, a flyover will only work properly if the traffic can flow smoothly. For that to happen, vehicles mustn't cross the solid white line in the middle of the road because when they do to turn left or perform a U-turn, the advantage of spending P300 million on a structure that was supposed to ease the flow of traffic is severely negated. I can only imagine how useless the flyover will be if one considers the presence of all those commercial establishments in the area and couple it with the inability of traffic authorities to enforce the simplest of laws.

Take my case as an example. If I were southbound along Araneta St. and on my way to work, there would be no problem as I could just turn into the parking area that the Visayan DAILY STAR especially constructed when the flyover started being built. Now, if I came from the south and were northbound along Araneta, the only way I could get to my office would be to perform an illegal U-turn at the base of the flyover. It is illegal because of the solid white line along the length of Araneta Street. A lot of Bacolod drivers ignore that solid white line and U-turn anywhere they please but that's another topic. If I wanted my U-turn to be legal, I'd have to go all the way to Gaisano City, turn left into the mall and then exit the mall again to turn right into southbound traffic. Given the way our drivers drive and how our law enforcers enforce, I don't think anyone in the same situation will go through the trouble of making their U-turns legal and that will cause traffic to slow down and render the flyover useless.

This conundrum applies to all vehicles who want to turn left or U-turn within 500 meters of the flyover. Any vehicle that crosses the solid white center line will impede the flow of traffic from the flyover. Hopefully the city is prepared to handle this and has come up with a plan to make positive gains from the construction of the flyover rather than make no improvement at all, or worse, make the situation worse.

Aside from the naturally available U-turn slots under the flyover, Araneta Street will need two more U-turn slots if the rule of the solid white line as an imaginary barrier is going to be enforced. The northern end of the flyover area will need a U-turn slot at the Gaisano/Planta area and the southern end will need an equivalent one at Goldenfields or the intersection of Alijis. How that is going to be implemented and enforced, that is anybody's guess.

Of course I could be totally wrong and the current free-for-all system currently in effect all over the island could be fine and left turns and U-turns anywhere we please won't matter. But if you come to think of it, if that were the case, wouldn't that indicate that the traffic volume in the area isn't bad enough to require a flyover in the first place?

Let's wait and see.

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