Sunday July 22, 2018

Briones: Neverending story

THE World Bank approved a loan package of $141 million nearly four years ago for the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.

So lack of funding is not one of the reasons for the delay in its implementation.

Its main proponent, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, however believes that the Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) decision not to award contracts for the Cebu BRT technical service consultants is partly to blame.

He may have a point.

Why didn’t the DOTr award the contracts for the Cebu BRT technical service consultants?

But still, the BRT idea was first floated some 18 years ago. And yet, the project’s Detailed Engineering Design was still 60.82 percent complete as of March 31, or three months after it was supposed to have been finished.

It seems no one is interested in fast-tracking the project’s implementation except for Osmeña.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that his new nemesis, Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino, recommended the cancellation of the BRT along with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

Dino has set his sight on the more ambitious and expensive Light Rail Transit that will cater to commuters in the metro, and not just Cebu City. Because, let’s face it, the Cebu BRT, if it ever gets on the ground, is Cebu City-specific, while the traffic problem that it’s trying to address does not recognize any boundaries. So a more comprehensive and encompassing solution is needed.

And let’s not forget, it won’t look good for Osmeña’s political stock if he loses this pissing contest. Not with the mayoral elections next year and the barangay and SK elections next month.

His loss to his former ally and protege Michael Rama in 2013 had put a dent in his once invincible armor. Not only was it his first election defeat, that it happened while he was allied with the administration party made it hurt even more.

But what has politics got to do with this issue, anyway?

One thing’s for sure, though, while Osmeña and Dino trade barbs, traffic in the metro continues to get worse. By the day.

More than 119,000 vehicles have registered from 2014, when the BRT’s feasibility study ended, to last year.

Meanwhile, how many roads have been widened or have been opened or have been built to accommodate these new additions?

There is that underpass being built on N. Bacalso in Barangay Mambaling, where they’re excavating two lanes at the center of a six-lane highway so that when it’s completed there will still be six lanes albeit two will be “depressed” and the government will be P683 million poorer.