Halsema lights good, but who will pay?

DEPARTMENT of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Benguet District Engineer Romelda Bangasan said installing safety features along the Halsema Highway would be good to prevent accidents.

Bangasan said the highway can do without traffic lights, as the number of vehicles traversing its stretch does not merit the installation of mechanized lights.

“No need for traffic light sa Halsema kasi ano, di naman ganun kadami volume,” Bangasan said but suggested a full lighting of the highway instead.

Based on the 2017 DPWH data on the average daily traffic volume along the Halsema Highway (known as the Baguio-Bontoc road), 2,006 vehicles traverse the highway daily.

DPWH counted a daily average of 891 motor vehicles, 205 passenger cars, 607 goods utility vehicles, 33 large buses, 102 small buses, 23 trucks and 34 semi-trailer trucks on the highway.

Bangasan said lighting the entire stretch of the Halsema will be a better plan to keep motorists safe but posed the challenge on who will pay the electricity bills.

“But who would pay? Nobody will be willing to pay, who will take the responsibility to pay the stretch of the Halsema,” the DPWH official said.

Halsema Highway traverses Baguio City, Benguet province and Mountain Province through small barangays.

Usually, lighting installed will be billed at where the contraptions are set and will be additional burden to municipalities where the lights are placed, a setup not favored by municipal governments.

Bangasan said solar-powered lights would be ideal as maintenance is minimal and setup is simple, but added that there is no budget for the fixtures.

The DPWH official said installing lighting fixtures along the highway would help minimize road crashes along Halsema.

The road is protected from landslides as the DPWH has implemented a slope protection project with shotcrete, rock netting and gabions.

The southwest monsoon, or habagat, however, has left some slopes saturated.

“Marami ang slope protection. Depends on the material of the slope, height, structure. Not the whole stretch is slope protected because some areas are stable as it is,” Bangasan said.

Since 2014, there have been close to 10,000 road crashes in the province of Benguet alone.

Benguet police records show 8,204 vehicular traffic accidents recorded which have led to the loss of life, damage to property and injuries along Halsema, a crucial road network connecting the entire Mountain Province to Baguio City and Benguet.

The global status report on road safety 2018, launched by World Health Organization highlights that the number of annual road traffic deaths has reached 1.35 million.

Road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of people aged five to 29 years.

The burden is disproportionately borne by pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, in particular those living in developing countries.

The report suggests the price paid for mobility is too high, especially because proven measures exist. These include strategies to address speed and drinking and driving, among other behaviors; safer infrastructure like dedicated lanes for cyclists and motorcyclists; improved vehicle standards such as those that mandate electronic stability control; and enhanced post-crash care.

Drastic action is needed to put these measures in place to meet any future global target that might be set and save lives.

(This story was produced under the Bloomberg Initiative Global Road Safety Media Fellowship implemented by the World Health Organization, Department of Transportation and VERA Files.)


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