Briones: Sidewalk obstructions

Publio J. Briones III
Publio J. Briones III

The first package of the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) project, which covers a distance of 2.38 kilometers from the Cebu South Bus Terminal along N. Bacalso Ave. to the front of the Capitol building along Osmeña Blvd., is worth a little over a billion pesos (P1.048 billion).

On paper it looks really expensive, right? I mean, a billion is a billion. But then that billion is in Philippine peso. If you convert the amount to US dollars, it’s less than US$20 million.

To put things into context, a five-kilometer stretch of expressway in Singapore cost US$3.5 billion to construct back in 2009. Imagine how much that thing would cost now.

If you’re wondering how much US$3.5 billion is in Philippine peso, just multiply it with the current exchange rate, which is P55.5, and you get the picture.

I think the bulk of the amount for the first package is going to the beautification of the sidewalks along Osmeña Blvd.

I could be wrong. Maybe it will go to the four bus stations that have yet to be built but I doubt it went into building the dedicated lanes because, let’s face it, the whole thing is only 2.38 kilometers.

So why am I again talking about the CBRT?

For months, many of the residents in the uptown area of Cebu City who are affected by the project had no idea why the contractor destroyed the sidewalks.

People like me who actually use the sidewalk for its intended purpose were at first flummoxed. What a waste of public funds, I thought. Apparently, this government has a knack for fixing things that aren’t broken, and actually ignoring those that need immediate attention.

So when the divisions came down for the big reveal, I was pleasantly surprised. Genuinely.

The sidewalk near the Fuente Osmeña fronting the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center and Department of Health (DOH) compound all the way to the gasoline station at the corner of Uytengsu St. has been transformed into a brick walkway -- I’m not sure if that’s the correct term – and it looks pretty good.

With this outcome, I will charge all those weeks of trudging through mud and dirt on my way to the office from Urgello St. in Sambag 1 to experience. In other words, I like what I see and it sure is worth all the suffering that I had had to endure while going about my daily commute.

There’s still plenty of work to be done, don’t get me wrong. The contractor has not started on the other side of the boulevard yet. But once both sides are finished, I’m sure it will encourage more people to take a stroll or just walk to wherever it is they’re going in the uptown area since everything is within walking distance. Banks, groceries, hospitals, pharmacies, fast-food joints, you name it, they can easily be reached on foot.

Hopefully, people will take advantage of the opportunity. That is, if everything stays as it is intended.

What do I mean by this? Well, I have been complaining about sidewalk obstructions for almost a decade. It has been a pet peeve of mine to find obstacles like illegally parked vehicles and makeshift shops, among others things, blocking my path. Because whoever the violators were they were blatantly breaking the law. And by continuing to do so, it felt like they didn’t care that they were doing it.

So the only good to come out of the mayhem brought about by the implementation of the first package of the CBRT project was the disappearance of the obstacles. I mean where were the cars supposed to park when the sidewalk was torn up? The same could be said for businesses that had claimed the sidewalk as part of their establishment.

But now that the sidewalk is slowly taking shape, what will happen? Will the Cebu City Government allow the illegal obstructions to return?

Already, a stretch of the newly paved sidewalk across the Visayas Community Medical Center where a motorcycle repair shop is located is stained with either oil or grease. Also, the sidewalk in front of the Vicente Sotto and DOH compound has already attracted many homeless people. So it’s only a matter of time before the illegally parked vehicles return.

If it’s going to be just like before, then why bother with the upgrade?

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