■ Ofelia C. Empian
The Benguet First District Engineering Office of the Department of Public Works and Highways said the Pines Park bridge project in Balili, La Trinidad is expected to be completed before the year ends.
Construction Section Chief Menelaus Santos said the agency is currently hauling from Unimax Steel Corporation in Mexico, Pampanga the fabricated steel girders and other steel components for the vehicular bridge.
Santos said the contractor assured the bridge will be completed by December.
Some of the steel girders, which support the bridge’s weight, were temporarily placed at the Bolo Creek awaiting hauling to the construction site in Balili.
The past typhoons also washed out the temporary road built along the Balili River, which was supposed to be the path for the steel girders. He said the contractor needed to craft rollers to help transport the steel components.
Earlier, the agency said fabrication of the steel components of the bridge, which needed to be imported from China, caused the delay in the construction of the P77 million worth project.
From the one-way lane and two sidewalk lanes of the old Pines Park bridge, the new design for the bridge includes a six-meter two-way lane, with pedestrian lanes on both sides measuring one meter each. The length is 38 meters and will also have streetlights.
The bridge, which started construction on Oct. 11, 2022, will be concreted and overlaid with asphalt.
Santos said while the bridge is two-way, the entrance from the Baguio-Bontoc national road along Km. 4 will not be expanded, as some of the affected residents did not give their consent to give part of their property for a wider bridge ramp.
From the bridge’s original completion date on Oct. 24, Santos said the contractor was given an extension of 60 days to complete the project.
Workers of EGB Construction Corporation/Jaben General Contracting and Engineering Services, are currently preparing the site for the eventual launching of the steel components of the bridge.
Santos said the alternate road going to Pines Park at the Benguet State University property in Tebteb, Balili is also currently being concreted to make it into a permanent diversion road.
Meanwhile, Benguet Rep. Eric Yap reiterated to the DPWH and the contractor to complete the project within the year as residents in the area are already hard up in going around the diversion road to go to their residences.
Yap expressed his dissatisfaction with the sluggish progress of the project and called on the responsible parties to provide clarity on the current status and a firm commitment to complete the bridge without further delays.
“The fund may expire by the end of the year kung hindi ma-extend iyong validity. The construction of a new Pines Park Bridge is something that we really prioritized pagdating sa paghahanap ng pondo,” Yap said.
Residents who had eagerly anticipated the benefits of the bridge, including reduced traffic congestion and improved accessibility to key areas, are now becoming increasingly frustrated as traffic snarls, detours, and the sight of an unfinished bridge have become a daily reality for Balili residents.