03 June 2010

SBMA postpones Kalaklan bridge closure anew

Giving in to yet another request from the local community, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has further delayed the closure of the Kalaklan bridge, a 50-year old span linking this free port to tourism spots in Olongapo City and the province of Zambales.

SBMA administrator Armand Arreza said that Olongapo mayor James Gordon Jr. has personally interceded on behalf of local businessmen for the SBMA to postpone the bridge closure so that local tourism establishments may maximize their earnings during the summer season.

At the same time, Gordon had pledged the support of the city for this project that was designed to improve access to the Subic Freeport from Olongapo and extend the ecozone boundaries to contiguous communities.

“Mayor Gordon wants this project to go on smoothly, because he really wants to improve the existing links between Olongapo and the Freeport,” Arreza revealed.

“So in deference to the mayor, we thought it best to give local businessmen a longer breathing spell, and keep the bridge open while the summer season lasts,” he said.

Arreza added that keeping the bridge open will also be a gesture of goodwill to local traders “whom we count on to be our partners when the SBMA eventually extends the boundaries of the free port into the surrounding communities.”

The SBMA had originally scheduled the closure of the Kalaklan bridge to vehicles in February, and to pedestrians in March, to make way for the construction of a replacement for the 50-year old span built by the U.S. Navy in the early ‘50s.

These schedules were moved, however, upon the request of Gordon who asked that local traders be allowed to cash in on the peak tourism season this summer.

Despite the delay in bridge closure, Arreza said that work continues in the preparation of the foundation for the replacement span, as well as other project components, including a security plaza and a Customs office.

The SBMA announced earlier that the Kalaklan bridge had to be replaced because the 50-year old span was already classified as “structurally weakened.”

The P200-million bridge project is scheduled to be completed within a year.

Arreza said the construction of a replacement bridge will also jumpstart the SBMA program to expand the physical boundaries of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, and extend the development to nearby areas in Olongapo, as well as Subic, Zambales and Morong, Bataan.

According to Joselito Bakuteza, head of the SBMA Project Management Office, about 2,500 light vehicles and some 300 pedestrians, mostly workers, pass through the Kalaklan bridge everyday.

In the course of the construction and bridge closure, traffic had to be re-routed through Olongapo City, and access to the free port will have to be made via the Rizal Avenue and 14th Street bridges in the city.

To help ease the anticipated heavy traffic in Olongapo as a result of the re-routing, Gordon had pledged the support of the city government by effecting a truck ban in the city during the construction period, from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m and from 11:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m from Monday to Friday.

Gordon also announced that the city will declare the busy 14th Street as a tow-away zone to prevent gridlock at the alternative route to the Subic Bay Freeport. (SBMA Corporate Communications)