AMID the mushrooming of skyscrapers around the UST perimeter and the untrammelled development in the area that has no rhyme and reason as far as urban planning is concerned, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Urban Road Project Office has proposed to construct a four-lane flyover along Lacson (Forbes) Avenue in a purported attempt to alleviate traffic congestion.

The flyover, estimated to cost of P900 million, would stand as high as the Roque Ruaño Building to give way to the proposed rail construction of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 9 that would traverse the España Boulevard and Quezon Avenue.

Both projects seem to have materialized from nowhere and sprung on the people who would be most affected by them: the UST community and the residents of Sampaloc. As far as we know, there has been no public consultation about the twin mammoth projects. Even the Dominican administration of UST said they had not been consulted. They said they have been merely “notified” that the projects would push through. So much for democracy!

If pursued, the flyover—which will have a construction duration of 15 months—would require road widening of Lacson Avenue that would consequently hamper the traffic flow of the UST Hospital and remove its clinical division’s ramp.

How the state could just decide like that to cut the sidewalk for the pedestrian public—and for hospital patients—in order to make more room for private motorists is beyond us! Just as alarming is the fact that the DPWH and the state seem to have impervious to the fact that by narrowing the sidewalk, they would widen the road for traffic and noise pollution in a zone whose most prominent features—and citizens—are a giant educational institution and a full-size general hospital with the largest private charity ward in the Philippines! We pity the students holding classes at the Roque Ruaño and Albertus Magnus Buildings! We pity the poor patients of the UST Hospital! If they survive their ailments, they may yet succumb to noise pollution and traffic stress!

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Officials lobbying for the project said studies conducted in 2004 together with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) have supported the need for a flyover, adding that the area has already plunged to its worst state. Through the flyover traffic volume and intersection delays would be reportedly reduced and motorists would save vehicle-operating costs due to “improved road condition.” (Again the primary consideration here has been given to private motorists and the transport industries, not the general public.)

But the high cost of the project should indicate that the DPWH, MMDA, and government at large are pushing for it due to self-interest. There are other ways of alleviating the traffic condition on Lacson. The fact that the MMDA, the police, and the local governments don’t implement basic traffic rules in Lacson—cars can park at will in no-parking zones and they’re not towed away or much less, reprimanded; commercial establishments are allowed to use the sidewalks as parking spaces; tall buildings aren’t compelled to put up their own car parks and to stop using public spaces for such; rows of passenger jeepneys are allowed to park at the corner of Lacson and España Street; barangays freely appropriate sidewalks to put up barangay booths and even permanent structures like barangay halls; and barangays even appropriate whole streets to put up basketball courts for the “grand barangay basketball league”!—should at least give us, taxpayers, some pause. Are government authorities not enforcing basic rules of safety and order exactly so that the anarchy of the streets would give them an alibi to spend hundreds of millions of our money on mammoth but ultimately misguided infrastructure projects the better to spread the kickbacks around and batten themselves to greed’s fullness and utter filth?

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What is more, the DPWH and MMDA are pushing through the light railway and flyover projects without consideration of UST’s status as a National Cultural Treasure, as declared by the National Museum, and as National Historical Treasure, as declared by the National Historical Institute.

As studies on urban planning would show, flyovers and the LRT on Taft have resulted merely urban decomposition of the communities living under such colossal structures. They merely abet the tendency of old communities toward inner citydom.

Obviously as in Taft Avenue, there are graver problems to address rather than building flyovers and light railways. In Taft, it is the condition of the road itself, the maintenance of sidewalks and rendering them free of obstructions from hawkers, parked cars, and petty criminals; as well as providing effective drainage so as to check flood and enhance hygiene. The LRT has not improved the condition of Taft; it has worsened it. Taft looks like the Bronx.

In UST and the Sampaloc district, the chief problem is flooding. The construction of a flyover and a railway would only abet flooding, if not worsen it.

But the problem is deep and difficult to fix. As the Varsitarian has always reported, the lack of drainage and flood control in Quezon City, Mandaluyong, and northeast of the city is what causes waters to be dumped in Sampaloc. The problem would take billions of pesos to fix and a lot of political will. But our government leaders would rather shirk that and expend themselves on big projects with little political costs. They want a return on their investments (our taxes mind you) quick.

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Promising as they may look like, these projects have no difference with the annual road rehabilitation and elevation projects around UST which attempt to alleviate floods. Despite the millions poured into such projects, Thomasians still wade through the flood whenever rainy season comes.

There are far less costly and more effective alternatives than building a flyover to ease traffic congestion on Lacson and España. Premiere architects have in fact suggested of ways to ease traffic in the area without the construction of the flyover. Some of them are the green wave, or synchronization of traffic lights in intersections to allow traffic flow fluidly; a master plan of transit-oriented developments; and the most basic, a campaign for a return to road etiquette and courtesy among motorists and commuters.

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