By Betheena Unite
A 1.12-kilometer interchange, which provides a new exit route from the Philippine Arena to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) in Bocaue, Bulacan, was inaugurated Tuesday, in time for the opening ceremonies for the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) on November 30, 2019.
The P260-million interchange is expected to improve mobility and accessibility within the Bulacan road network, particularly in Bocaue, Sta. Maria, Pandi, Norzagaray, Angat, and other nearby towns and ease traffic upon exiting from Bocaue to NLEX, Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar said.
“We all know that the SEA Games opening is approaching, so, we fast tracked the interchange’s completion because it will also decongest traffic in this area,” Villar said.
“Motorists coming from the Arena will no longer have to utilize the Bocaue exit as they can already exit through the new interchange going to NLEX,” Villar explained.
The Philippine Arena interchange features an 80-lineal meter bridge which connects Bocaue Municipal Hall, NLEX, Ciudad de Victoria, and Bocaue-Sta. Maria Bypass Road. It has a northbound entry and exit toll plaza and soon, a southbound toll plaza for better accessibility.
Villar, however, clarified that the road project was not exclusively built for the SEA Games. It can still be utilized beyond the biennial meet and thousands of motorists, especially the people of Bulacan who had to deal with the heavy traffic on Bocaue exit, will continue to benefit from the road.
“Actually, we expedited the construction in time for SEA Games – within less than a year. This is really a game-changing project to decongest Bocaue exit,” Villar said.
Initially, the section from Philippine Arena to the southbound side of NLEX will open on November 29, while the southbound section (from north of NLEX) going to the Philippine Arena will open on November 30 only for the SEA Games opening ceremony to give way to the remaining works of the interchange project.
Touted as the world’s largest indoor arena, the 55,000-seat Philippine Arena is a venue for international sports and entertainment events. It is part of the Ciudad de Victoria, a tourism enterprise zone in Bocaue and Sta. Maria.
Villar also emphasized that the Philippine Arena interchange is also expected to help ease mounting traffic along Governor F. Halili Road in Bocaue-Sta.Maria.
NLEX Corporation President and General Manager J. Luigi Bautista, for his part, said that “NLEX is keen on supporting the government’s infrastructure plan as it also provides travel convenience for motorists using the expressway system and opens up opportunities for local communities.”
It was also disclosed that a second phase of the interchange will be constructed.
“There will be a Phase 2. We will extend the road for the benefit of the people in Bulacan,” Villar said.
Eventually, the 1.91-kilometer road from MacArthur Highway to Bocaue Municipal will be improved and a 1.3-kilometer road from the Philippine Arena to the existing Patubig Road in Marilao, Bulacan will be constructed.
“We are excited with this project that will further improve the roads leading to the Philippine Arena, especially now that we are hosting the 30th Southeast Asian Games Opening Ceremony,” Villar expressed.
An inaugural drive-thru of the new interchange was led by Villar, Senator Joel Villanueva, House Majority Leader Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Bulacan Governor Daniel Fernando, Bocaue Mayor Eleonor Villanueva, Toll Regulatory Board Executive Director Abraham Sales, Iglesia ni Cristo Head Legal Counsel lawyer Glicerio Santos IV, NLEX Corporation Senior Vice President for Communication and Stakeholder Management lawyer Romulo Quimbo Jr., Senator Francis Tolentino, San Juan Mayor Francis Zamora, and other government officials. (With a report from Emmie V. Abadilla)