“Why are the repairs taking so long?”
People going up to Baguio City from the south normally take the Marcos highway. This is because for the past few years, the iconic Kennon Road has been closed to the public. Those living along the road, however, and who own vehicles, are exempted from the ban. Government vehicles and some influential government officials are also apparently allowed to use the road.
During weekends, the DPWH allows limited access for private vehicles. From Friday midnight to Saturday midnight, class one vehicles can use the road going up to Baguio City. From Saturday midnight to Sunday midnight the road is open to the same class of vehicles going down. According to the Regional Highway Patrol Office, the reason for this is the never-ending road repair works that have been going on for some years. The road has been closed much longer than when it was closed due to the earthquake in 1990.
Why it is taking such a long time to repair a badly needed road has never been explained satisfactorily. There seems to be no sense of urgency by the DPWH to finish the repair works that are being done in some sections of the road. These are in Camp 3 and 4 where some slope protection works are going on. The one in Camp 6 has something to do with the bridge while the one below the checkpoint if one is going down is also about slope protection. The repair works should have been finished by now but it is still ongoing. This being the case, the DPWH should develop a traffic management scheme to allow more vehicles to pass through Kennon Road to alleviate traffic along Marcos highway.
Using Marcos highway adds about 20 to 30 minutes to the trip going up or down, and with gas prices skyrocketing, this is adding to the burden of the motoring public. Since all classes of vehicles like buses, huge delivery trucks and class one vehicles must use the highway, the huge vehicles are slowing traffic flow considerably because overtaking becomes difficult for the faster and smaller vehicles.
Any diversion of traffic to Kennon Road therefore can help lighten the traffic along Marcos highway thereby improving traffic flow especially among owner driven vehicles. There are ways that this can be done without impacting so much the repair works being done along Kennon Road. For instance, adding more days to the three weekend days that the road is open to the public is one. Another is opening the road after work which is basically five O’clock in the afternoon to eight the following morning. The posting of signaling people will probably be necessary but this should be a small price to pay by the contractor or DPWH for the public to be able to use the road and improve traffic for both Marcos highway and Kennon Road.
A few years back, I remember the DPWH mentioning the need to strengthen the slopes of Kennon to make the road an all-weather road. But that was a couple of years before the pandemic and as we can see, not much has been accomplished.
People might start to ask questions and be suspicious if there is a hidden reason why the repair works have not yet been completed. This is more so because the DPWH can apparently open and close Kennon whenever it pleases. It would help if the DPWH comes out with regular bulletins on the progress of the repair works. The public deserves that. It is also a mystery why the local governments of Baguio City and the Benguet Provincial government do not nudge the DPWH to open the road to the public at the earliest possible time. Both should be the ones pounding on DPWH to open the road but nothing is being heard from them. It seems that there is a conspiracy to keep the road closed to the detriment of the motoring public.
The last time I passed Kennon Road, there were road repairs being done but traffic was still allowed both ways albeit there were some controls. This was some years back and I am surprised that the repairs being done now are the same sections being repaired then.
Part of the work that DPWH should also be doing along Kennon Road to protect the slopes is to plant trees with broad leaves in coordination with DENR or alone if need be. This is because these kinds of trees are better in retaining water and can therefore strengthen the slopes better than pine trees. There are other things that the DPWH can do but the most important is to finish the repairs so that the road can be fully opened to the public soonest.