■ Jane B. Cadalig
The city council has approved the proposed redevelopment of Session Road, which requires P120 million even while studies on its impact are ongoing and detailed costs of the project are still being finalized.
The approval came with the condition that whatever work is to be done on the city’s main thoroughfare will be submitted to the council for confirmation.
The P120M Session Road Redevelopment Project is part of the P410M annual investment plan submitted by the executive department, whose approval was stalled during the Oct. 19 special council session where City Hall department heads presented their annual budget as the council requested a presentation of the plan.
Based on the concept design presented by the City Planning and Sustainable Development Office (CPSDO) during the Oct. 23 city council special meeting, Session Road will become a five-lane thoroughfare with two lanes going up and two lanes going down and a middle lane to be used as an emergency lane.
The center island will be removed to allow the proposed adjustments on the road, including the sidewalk expansion that aims to promote pedestrian mobility and allow the provision of open spaces and areas with shade trees.
There will be no more parking areas, but spaces will be allotted for loading and unloading zones.
The City Engineer’s Office (CEO) said the proposed redevelopment aims to achieve symmetry on Session Road, which means the width of the lanes going up and down and the sidewalks, among other spaces, will have the same measurements.
CPSDO Head Donna Tabangin said the project design is not cast in stone.
“It can still be subject to changes and improvements because we are still gathering lots of inputs from the public consultations we have been doing,” she told the members of the council.
She added they are still winding up the pre-feasibility study for the project and another round of consultation will be done to gather more inputs to be integrated into the redevelopment plan.
No detailed costs were presented although the CEO already came out with the initial scope of work, but City Engr. Olpindo said they will provide the estimates after meeting the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda has asked if the project should be included in the 2024 budget when studies and public consultations are still being done.
“If feasibility studies and public consultations are still being done, should you immediately embark on this project? We might again have a problem with fund use on the Seal of Good Local Governance if we have another project that will not be implemented within the year,” she said.
Councilor Mylen Yaranon also asked if the redevelopment plan considered how the drainage system could be incorporated into the project to avoid a situation where a newly improved Session Road will be dismantled if DPWH has to implement a drainage improvement project. Drainage improvement projects fall under the mandate of the DPWH with Session Road being a national road.
Another concern raised is if the 3.15-meter vehicle lanes proposed under the Session redevelopment conform with the 3.35-meter minimum standard of the DPWH.
Tabangin said they were going to discuss this with the DPWH-CAR in a meeting set last week.
A comprehensive presentation on how the traffic flow will go when the project is implemented was also requested.
Amidst the concerns, the city council approved the inclusion of the P120M Session Road redevelopment project in the 2024 AIP budget, with councilors Tabanda, Yaranon, Michael Lawana, and Benny Bomogao abstaining.
Lawana and Bomogao said they are not against the redevelopment of Session, but considering the issues raised, they said the project is premature.
Tabanda suggested the removal of the P120M from the AIP and the funds for the project can come in the form of a supplemental budget when the studies and public consultation have been finalized, together with the cost estimates.
Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan said the concerns will be addressed by the condition that the documents and the works on the proposed Session Road redevelopment should be submitted to the council for confirmation before these are implemented. – Jane B. Cadalig