IN 2015, drivers and commuters endured so much stress traveling through Mandaue City. It was a year of road works, traffic snarls, and road rage, at least on Facebook.
Will 2016 be any better?
From opening new roads and widening existing ones in less travelled parts of the city to teaching traffic enforcers how to sketch accidents and installing more traffic lights with surveillance cameras, City Hall planners have prepared an array of projects and ideas to ease traffic this year.
Florentino Nimor Jr., newly appointed executive director of the Traffic Enforcement Agency of Mandaue (TEAM), has come up with short-term measures to the traffic problem, achievable within six months. Long-term solutions like an efficient mass transport system and a new bridge to Mactan Island remain plans, for now.
Apart from implementing internal changes like equipping TEAM personnel with better knowledge on traffic law enforcement, Nimor said City Hall will try to get the community to help solve the traffic problem.
Being major contributors to traffic, some schools and malls will be made to help in traffic planning.
Nimor said the installation of more traffic lights will help improve the traffic situation. “Additional traffic lights and cameras will be installed during the first half of the year,” he said.
At least 12 more road intersections will have traffic lights and surveillance cameras. Nine intersections have these devices at present.
With roads in Mandaue’s commercial center already congested, City Hall has set aside funds for road opening and road widening projects in less populated areas to create bypass routes.
These roads, located in the western section of Mandaue, will divert some of the vehicles that will otherwise contribute to heavy traffic in the national highways like the M.C. Briones St. and the Plaridel St.
“Taking the bypass roads means longer distance but motorists will not get stuck in traffic,” said Nimor.
He added that having new and wider roads in other parts of the city will help spread out investments and, in turn, decongest the center.
Mandaue has borne the brunt of traffic buildup resulting from Metro Cebu’s economic progress over the years.
The city, being in the center of Metro Cebu, is the gateway to the cities of Cebu and Lapu-Lapu and the town of Consolacion.
A highly urbanized city, Mandaue is home to 331,000 people based on the 2010 census. Its population was projected to reach 374,000 this year.
But the number of trips that pass through the city every day exceeds the population.
According to a study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) a few years back, more than 370,000 trips pass through Mandaue City every day.
Last year, simultaneous road projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7 worsened the traffic.
TEAM has been implementing a one-way traffic scheme on two city roads for four months now, in a bid to ease traffic on roads under repair.
The scheme has not prevented traffic snarls on the national highways, but it has smoothened traffic flow on the one-way roads: S.B. Cabahug St. and J.P. Burgos St.
It remains to be seen whether the city’s traffic situation will improve this year, but change cannot be expected this month with the Sinulog festivities and an international religious gathering expected to draw thousands of people from around the world.
The City Governments of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu earlier asked the DPWH 7 not to start the repair of a major thoroughfare and the first Mandaue-Mactan Bridge until the two major events are over.
Activities during the International Eucharistic Congress in the last week of the month include a walk from Hoops Dome in Lapu-Lapu City to the Mandaue Reclamation Area to be participated by an estimated 5,000 pilgrims.
The repair of the A. Soriano Ave., which is part of the route for the Jericho Walk, may start anytime after Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes has given the DPWH 7 the go-signal to start the project.
Major works on the bridge, on the other hand, will not start until the IEC is over.
Repairs on A. Soriano Ave. and the bridge are not the only infrastructure projects in Mandaue this year.
The DPWH 7 Sixth District Engineering Office has lined up more than P300 million worth of projects for the city.
The projects include upgrading three major thoroughfares: UN Ave., M.L. Quezon St. and Hernan Cortes St.
But Nimor believes traffic will be manageable during the repair of these roads.
Stop-gap measures may help ease traffic for awhile, but Nimor said solving the problem will take more work and bigger projects.
He said the two additional bridges being planned for Cebu mainland to Mactan Island, once constructed, will help decongest Mandaue.
Urban planners and environmental advocates have long called for an efficient mass transit system for Metro Cebu to solve traffic
woes and air quality concerns.
The Cebu Bus Rapid Transit System in Cebu City, which may eventually extend to the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu, is already in the works.
Nimor said he supports the recent venture of SM Prime Holdings Inc. to deploy modern buses in Metro Cebu.
The company’s Metro Rapid Transit System Inc., with 77 air-conditioned buses called MyBus, serves the route identified for the third phase of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit System.
Nimor said the buses are a good start in encouraging car owners to take public transportation. He said national legislation should also be made to discourage people from buying cars.
Mayor Cortes has repeatedly stressed the need for cooperation among Metro Cebu local government units, saying Mandaue’s traffic problem is a shared burden.
The mayoral candidates for the May elections have offered ideas, too.
Rep. Gabriel Luis Quisumbing (Cebu, sixth district) has called for a Metro Cebu traffic body and a feasibility study for a coastal highway from the South Road Properties in Cebu City to Liloan town in the north.
Councilor Emmarie Ouano-Dizon sponsored a resolution, which the City Council approved last September, requesting the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to send experts to study Mandaue’s traffic situation and give recommendations.
In the meantime, Nimor appealed to motorists to lend a hand by following traffic rules and suggesting solutions, instead of simply cursing and criticizing behind the wheel.