During the last couple of years, we’ve seen the government aggressively spend on new road projects to ease transport in and around Metro Manila. Thanks to these projects, 8 northern provinces can now be considered 'closer' to Metro Manila thanks to the travel time hat has been cut in half.

Backround

Under the leadership of President, Rodrigo Duterte, the government embarked on an ambitious Luzon Spine Expressway Network, which is a 1,040-kilometer network of expressways that would connect the northern and southern parts of Luzon.

According to Build, Build, Build chairperson, Anna Mae Lamentillo, “by building a 655-kilometer expressway network, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) secretary, Mark Villar, aims to complement the existing expressway grid spanning 385 kilometers. The goal is to increase the road network by three fold.”

To reduce the total amount of time it takes to travel from La Union to Bicol in half, the masterplan includes the NLEX Harbor Link Project, the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), the Urdaneta Bypass Road, the Radial Road 10, the Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEX), the Plaridel By-Pass Road, the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3, and the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road.

With the completion of 26,494 kilometers of roads and 5,555 bridges nationwide—eight provinces in the North are now closer to Metro Manila, according to DPWH.

Bulacan

15,000 vehicles are expected to be taken off from the national highway with the completion of the 24.6-kilometer Plaridel Bypass RD. Also, the bypass road provides direct access from NLEX to the towns of Angat, Balagtas, Pandi, all the way to San Rafael.

Nueva Ecija

With the opening of CLLEX’s first 18-kilometer section earlier this year, it only takes 20 minutes to travel from Nueva Ecija to Tarlac (and back), from the previous 1 hour plus. Currently, CLLEX is toll-free, and can be accessed via the interconnection structure of SCTEX and TPLEX in Balingcanaway in Tarlac City. CLLEX is expected to decongest traffic in the Pan Philippine Highway by 48% and reduce travel time by 70%.

La Union

Traveling to Rosario, La Union, which is the gateway to Baguio City, used to take 6 to 8 hours. Thanks to the completion of TPLEX, Rosario, La Union is just, more or less, a 3-hour drive from Manila.

Pangasinan

Like La Union, the province of Pangasinan also benefited a lot from the completion of TPLEX, and is now just a 2-hour drive from Manila.

Travel time from Villasis to Binalonan has also been reduced to only 30 minutes via the newly opened Urdaneta Bypass Road. A 24.22-kilometer scenic Daang Katutubo Road, which will be completed in 2022, will also make travel time faster to the town of Aguilar.

Benguet

A 144-kilometer road network called the BLISTT (Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay) Outer Circumferential Road now provides easy access to these towns, as well as to the northern areas of Cordillera Administrative Region to Cagayan Valley Region through the Benguet-Vizcaya Road.

Ilocos Sur

Easily one of the most popular places to visit before the onset of the pandemic because of its historic churches is Ilocos Sur and its most famous city, Vigan. Travelers can reach these destinations faster thanks to the newly-constructed Candon Bypass Road, which cuts travel time to only 20 minutes instead of the usual 40 to 50 minutes through the national highway.

Other big-ticket projects in the region include the Bantay-San Ildelfonso Bypass Road, the Bantay-Vigan Diversion Road, and the Tagudin Bypass Road.

Ilocos Norte

Three bridges were completed in this beautiful province that made travel time to Apayao Province faster. These are the Sicapo, Tabbayagan, and Madduang Bridges along Apayao-Ilocos Norte Road in Apayao Province, which have reduced travel time from the provinces of Apayao and Ilocos Norte by at least three hours, from the usual 6-hour drive.

Mountain Province

Sagada was the most popular tourist destination in this province before the pandemic. If and when travel restrictions are eased, tourists can reach Sagada faster through the newly paved 9.44-kilometer Balili-Suyo-Sagada Road and the 9.85-kilometer Sabangan-Sagada Road leading to the hanging coffins, Bomo-ok Falls, and Sumaguing cave.

Hopefully when the pandemic situation improves and travel restrictions are eased, we can all enjoy these new roads with quicker travel time to these lovely places in the north of Luzon.