09 February 2010

Kalaklan bridge to remain open during construction of new bridge

The Kalaklan Lighthouse Bridge, which connects Subic Bay Freeport to Olongapo City and Zambales, will remain open until June 2010 while a new bridge is being constructed to replace it.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Administrator Armand Arreza said that the bridge will not be closed as originally planned, but will continue to be open to light vehicles and pedestrians, in response to appeals made by the city government and business groups in Olongapo City.

Arreza has directed the agency’s Engineering Department to ask the project contractor to install additional safety mechanisms and regularly conduct maintenance work on the existing bridge to ensure public safety.

“We do not mind spending more for this project if it means ensuring that public interest is served adequately,” Arreza said.

SBMA’s move is expected to avert a potential traffic disaster in Olongapo City, which will absorb all vehicular traffic from the Freeport to Zambales and vice versa once the existing bridge is closed.

SBMA engineers said an average of 2,500 light vehicles and some 300 pedestrians, mostly workers, pass through the Kalaklan Lighthouse Bridge everyday.

The bridge construction project is part of the agency’s efforts to prepare necessary infrastructures for the eventual expansion of the Subic Bay Freeport into nearby areas like Olongapo.

SBMA Deputy Administrator for Public Works Engr. Mar Sanqui said the project contractor is also expected to submit a new program schedule, citing the possibility of a delay in the project completion, which was originally targeted for January next year.

The SBMA announced last month the start of construction work on the new bridge and the closure of the existing bridge to vehicular and pedestrian traffic starting February 15 and Marc h 1, 2010 respectively.

Olongapo City officials and businessmen led by Mayor James “Bong” Gordon Jr. have made representations with the SBMA to consider other options, citing the huge traffic volume that the city will have to take during the year-long construction period and the adverse impact on the tourism industry in Olongapo and Zambales during its peak season in the summer months.

The Kalaklan Bridge, one of the existing four bridges linking this free port to nearby Olongapo City, will be replaced by a new two-lane concrete bridge with covered walkway and a security plaza. It is also the Freeport’s gateway to Zambales.

This bridge and the Main Gate Bridge that leads to Magsaysay Drive, the city’s main business district, were built by the U.S. Navy in the early ‘60s.

SBMA engineers noted last year that these bridges have been “structurally weakened”. The Main Gate Bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic while only pedestrians and light vehicles are allowed to pass the Kalaklan Bridge. (SBMA Corporate Communications)