June 21, 2024

The City Planning and Development Office and the City Engineering Office were asked to widen its study on the impending implementation of the project meant to redesign Session Road into a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare through the concept called “Green Walks Initiative”.

In a public consultation last May 4 and during the city council’s session on May 2, concerned citizens and city officials have agreed there should be a thorough study first before both departments proceed with the plan.

During the public consultation, Engr. Teodorico Tan, the city’s consultant on traffic and transportation, said the CPDO and CEO’s plan of improving the city’s main thoroughfare dwell only on the environmental and aesthetic aspect but did not consider that widening the sidewalks and decreasing the width of the main road would heavily impact on traffic especially on adjacent roads and streets.

Tan said the CPDO and CEO should consider all aspects in planning; otherwise, the city government could be wasting funds on a project that might not be feasible in the long term.

Components of the Session Road redesign project are widening the sidewalks from 3.9 meters to six meters, reducing the four-lane road into three, removal of the center island and parking slots, designation of bike and HOHO (hop on-hop off) bus lanes, designation of loading/unloading area for taxis and private vehicles, and construction of a water retention facility. 

The project is divided into three phases: Phase 1 is the widening of the right side (from DBP Building going up to the corner of Gov. Pack Road), phase 2, widening of the left side, and phase 3 is the improvement of Upper Session Road.

Phase 1, which has been bid out for P20 million is due for implementation but was postponed after the public protested the plan of installing sheds on the entire stretch of the sidewalk.

City Engineer Victor Olpindo said the CEO has modified the design by installing sheds only at the designated taxi and HOHO stand. 

Phase 2 is projected to be implemented by 2023 and phase 3, which is in the planning and design stage will be by 2024.

CPDO Head Donna Tabangin said the widened sidewalk has four zones: the frontage zone – for leisurely walking; the walk zone, which will also be installed with tactiles and a wayfinder – for active walkers; the furnishing zone – for pocket gardens, benches and sheds, temperature monitors, garbage bins; and the green zone for trees and the water retention facility.

Once Session Road is converted into a three-lane road, one lane will be devoted to vehicles going up and two lanes for vehicles going down. 

Tabangin said this is to minimize emission of fumes from vehicles that have to rev up their engines thereby producing more smoke when navigating an incline.

The CEO will begin a simulation of the one-way going up traffic simultaneous with phase 1.

Parking slots will also be removed and the trees at the center island will be balled by the City Environment and Parks Management Office but will be replanted as soon as the sidewalks have been improved.

The 44 trees at the center island have been planted 22 years ago.

Tabangin also said the city government will retain the heritage value not just of Session Road but also of the Post Office loop.

She said the city government is planning on making the historical marker at Baden Powell Inn more prominent in order for promenaders to read about the historical significance of the road and of the building.

The city government is also a recipient of a P10M grant for the improvement of the Post Office garden. With Session Road being the starting point of parades, an amphitheater, benches, and reading nooks will be added at the area.

In anticipation of a greater demand for parking spaces because of the removal of parking slots along Session Road, Tabangin said the CPDO and CEO have also prepared plans for the construction of a central PUV terminal at Gov. Pack Road, Baguio Convention Center compound and Burnham Park, apart from the private parking offered by SM City Baguio.

Tabangin has assured citizens who attended the consultation and the city council that the project will benefit motorists, pedestrians, pedestrians with special needs, cyclists, and the environment.

She said Session Road is still a shared road, albeit more space is given to pedestrians.

The CPDO and the CEO’s explanations failed to convince those who have misgivings about the project.

Tan added a bus lane is not appropriate at Session Road as it is not designed to accommodate long vehicles. He said buses are ideal for long trips and delegating a bus lane for a two-kilometer stretch is not practical. Redundancy of route for the HOHO could also give rise to complaints from PUV drivers issued with franchises by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

The city council also advised the CPDO and CEO to study the project more thoroughly as the design might appear good on pictures but might not be viable when implemented.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda said the sidewalk only gets crowded during the dry season, but mostly empty during the wet season. 

“There is no issue about your design but we have to speak of a comprehensive plan not just for Session Road but consider other sectors that will be affected,” she said. – Rimaliza A. Opiña