Taking its toll

We commend the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) for responding favorably to the call of two senators to reduce or suspend the toll fees at the South Luzon Expressway (Slex) amid the heavy traffic being experienced by commuters and motorists in the area due to the ongoing Skyway extension project, particularly in the northbound lane of the Alabang viaduct.

“Motorists deserve to pay less for the trouble the gridlock is causing them due to the extension project,” said Sen. Grace Poe, head of the Senate Committee on Public Services.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian backed this up, saying the daily gridlock is a result of lack of planning by the Slex operator and the government agencies involved because mitigating measures should have been in place as the construction works would affect thousands of commuters and motorists. He said the TRB, on its own, can conduct an investigation with or without a complaint to justify the toll rate cut or suspension.

Fortunately, the TRB heeded the senators’ call. Raymundo Junia, who represents the private sector on the TRB, said the agency is, indeed, looking not only at reducing the Slex toll but also at imposing fines on the operator of Slex and Skyway for its failure to mitigate the daily traffic jam on the northbound portion of the expressway. The TRB can impose sanctions if it is established that the contractor’s negligence led to the daily traffic gridlock.

Previously, San Miguel Corp. (SMC) Tollways, the Slex operator, asked for the public’s understanding, as commuters and motorists have been calling for it to expedite its construction to ease the traffic situation.

“We ask for your understanding. This project is for the benefit of everyone. Just bear with us for a little bit. After completion of the project, we will have a smooth traffic flow,” SMC Tollways said in a statement.

The 6-kilometer extension of the Skyway from Barangay Cupang to Susana Heights in Muntinlupa City is scheduled to be completed in December 2020.

If you are one of those who have suffered through the northbound Slex traffic, a slow crawl of vehicles that normally extends to the San Pedro and Southwoods exits of Slex in Laguna, you probably need no convincing about how frustrating the congestion has been for the past weeks.

Toll booths are not just there for taking money. Motorists pay a toll for the maintenance and upkeep of the road, supposedly because the better infrastructure would provide a smoother traffic flow, where one can avoid congestion in the free roads, and also travel a shorter distance.

That’s why it is called an expressway.

Ideally, the toll you pay is worth the time and money you save from congestion. A few hours stuck in traffic every day can amount to a full workweek in lost time, aside from the stress and other inconveniences, and even potential health problems you might suffer.

The suggestion of the two senators to slash or suspend toll rates is not out of line. It is unfair to collect from motorists who are stuck in traffic for hours.

Easing the burden of Slex travelers by implementing a toll discount is the right thing to do, even as the government and the tollway and Skyway operators look for other ways to reduce congestion.

Image credits: Jimbo Albano


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