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Gov’t sets bike lanes, BRT in metro

Gov’t sets bike lanes, BRT in metro

By Ben O. de Vera 

Bicycles and bus rapid transit (BRT) will soon lord it over Metro Manila’s thoroughfares in the coming months as the government prioritizes these systems under a “new normal” of social distancing to avoid COVID-19’s spread, President Duterte’s adviser for flagship infrastructure programs and projects said.

Secretary Vivencio Dizon told European business chambers last week that cycling lanes and greenways for pedestrian traffic were currently being set up by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and were gaining support for possible financing by multilateral lenders.

“Bicycle lanes are being designed now throughout Metro Manila and the greenways project through the Asian Development Bank (ADB),” Dizon said, referring to the Manila-based ADB’s upcoming $130-million loan for the planned 5-kilometer elevated walkways to be constructed at railway stations in Balintawak, Cubao, Guadalupe and Taft next year.

Besides encouraging cycling, Dizon said that the DOTr was already working to put up four dedicated bus lanes along Edsa for the long-delayed BRT.

“For the longest time, BRT projects were not moving in Metro Manila and Cebu. But now, given what we have experienced with COVID-19, this [BRT] has taken center stage,” Dizon said.

Dizon said that the ADB and the World Bank were “very vigorously” pushing to put in place BRT systems as these were easy to plan, implement and build.

“I think we can get this [Edsa BRT] done in the next couple of months,” Dizon said.

He said that New Clark City already had a “wide and exhaustive” nonmotorized transport network, including a BRT set up through financing from Sweden.

He disclosed that Megawide Construction Corp. had submitted an unsolicited proposal to develop Clark’s BRT system.

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For Dizon, nonmotorized transport like BRT lines and cycling will provide safe and efficient modes of mass transportation while commuters adjust to physical distancing, especially if the COVID-19 pandemic would remain a problem at least up to next year, he said.

The recession brought by the pandemic and the safety standards needed to be enforced during construction were delaying some big-ticket projects included in the Duterte’s administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, but Dizon said partnerships with the private sector and official development assistance (ODA) from multilateral lenders and bilateral partners remained aplenty.

Of the updated P4.1-trillion Build, Build, Build pipeline of 105 projects, 49 projects will be financed by ODA, 30 projects will be rolled out through public-private partnerships, and 26 projects will be funded by the national budget, Dizon said.Dizon added that 76 projects were already in the implementation stage—construction or preconstruction (right of way acquisition, detailed architecture and engineering, or clearing activities), while the remaining projects were in the later stages of securing government approval. INQ

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