InterAksyon, 23 December 2013

By Darwin G. Amojelar


MANILA – The 88.85-kilometer Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) can be completed by 2015, or three years ahead of schedule, its private proponent said last week.

The TPLEX, which Private Infrastructure Development Corp (PIDC) is pursuing as a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project, would be inaugurated on Monday by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

“In terms of construction, we are ahead of schedule. We are on track to delivering the entire length of TPLEX as early as 2015,” said San Miguel Corp (SMC) president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang. SMC controls PIDC.

Coinciding with the inaugural drive through is the opening of the expressway’s Paniqui exit, which brings to 23 kilometers the total length of the TPLEX that is already operational.

Last October, PIDC opened for free public use the project’s 17-kilometer Phase 1A, which runs from Tarlac City to Gerona.

Work is ongoing on the 27-kilometer stretch from Paniqui to Moncada (also in Tarlac) then to Carmen in Pangasinan, including the construction of the 950-meter Agno viaduct.

While slated for completion by December 2014, PIDC expects to deliver this segment as early as April next year.  By then, the two-hour travel time from Tarlac to Carmen will be cut to only 30 minutes.

“Right now, we are waiting for the completion of the acquisition of the right-of-way for the 13.72-kilometer portion from the north bank of the Agno River up to Urdaneta. But our government is working on that. We are confident that we will complete this section up to Urdaneta as early as December 2014,” Ang said.

He said the remaining 25.83-kilometer section from Urdaneta to Rosario, La Union, will be completed the following year, a full three years ahead of the original 2018 target.

One of several infrastructure projects in San Miguel’s portfolio and its first greenfield tollway project, TPLEX will connect the central and northern Luzon provinces to Manila and beyond through the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and the North Luzon Expressway.

From end-to-end, the TPLEX will traverse 17 towns and two cities (Tarlac and Urdaneta) across four provinces: Tarlac, Pangasinan, La Union and Nueva Ecija.

Originally designed as a two-lane road, SMC decided to upgrade the project to four lanes to ensure road safety and in anticipation of future traffic growth. It can be expanded up to eight lanes in the future.

Once completed, it will cut travel time from Tarlac to La Union to only one hour. It is seen as a catalyst of growth, boosting tourism, trade, and agriculture in central and northern Luzon. By the time it is completes, it would have also generated about 12,000 jobs.