BAGUIO. Motorists traverse a portion of the Halsema Highway particularly along Tublay, Benguet that was affected by a road slip during the continuous rains in 2015. (Photo by Redjie Melvic Cawis)

Halsema’s first traffic lights tested

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet’s capital town is spearheading a call to manage traffic and keep roads safe along the Halsema Highway.

The valley, known as the trading center of the province, is a hub for the transport of goods and services and plies the stretch of the Halsema Highway which now has its first set of traffic lights.

The P4.2-million local government funded project has been installed and is on its experimental phase at the Kilometer 5 intersection of Benguet’s main highway aimed primarily to address congestion woes in the highland town.

Councilor Roderick Awingan who heads the committee on peace and order said legislation for maintenance and operation of the traffic lights must be made for smoother implementation of schemes in the future.

“We have to regulate the use of the traffic lights as well as the penalties for those who will violate the traffic rules as well as apprehension, the legal basis of it all must be set,” Awingan said.

Awingan added the traffic lights are now being tested and people identified to manage it are currently being trained.

The lights were installed August and will be fully operational by September. At the moment, traffic officers are still assigned at the intersection as the lights are on its observation period.

When the Kilometer 5 traffic lights are operational, more are set to be installed at bottleneck areas at the foot of the Provincial Capitol and at the Pines Park area.

Data from the La Trinidad Municipal Planning Development Office records a 50.26 percent increase of vehicles in from 2012 to 2016 with private vehicles pegged at 28,371, public vehicles at 1,534 and government vehicles tallied at 539.

Studies show volume of road traffic is concentrated from Baguio City going towards Shilan in La Trinidad with peak hours from 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and in the afternoon, congestion begins from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The valley has a 5.5 percent growth rate as population will soon hit 150,000. In 2007, population has reached 97,000 and has swollen to 100,000 today.

The traffic light is the first in the entire stretch of the American built highway leading to other towns of Benguet and is the gateway to the Mountain Province.

The highway named after American engineer, Eusebius Julius Halsema, who served as the mayor of Baguio City from 1920-1937 embarked on the construction of the highway with the help of locals.

Benguet Governor Crescencio Pacalso said Halsema Highway is a vital road network which cannot be closed despite the ongoing repairs by the Department on Public Works and Highways and perilous conditions during typhoons.

Board Members Fernando Balaodan and Bernard Waclin are also advocating to make the vital highway safer in the midst of its improvement and development saying signs along the highway should be clear for all people to see when traversing its length especially during the wet season.

Balaodan said the DPWH should also impose a 10-meter rule for all ongoing projects for motorists to be informed of road work before entering into the construction itself.

Both aldermen said it would be impossible to close portions of the highway as it is the main thoroughfare for major areas of the province leaving it to the discretion of the DPWH.

Traversing through the highway, you will pass eight municipalities in Benguet and four towns in Mountain Province. It is also the way to the tourist town of Sagada, where visitors flock to all year round.

Locals call the Halsema Highway “mountain trail” spanning 150 kilometers between Baguio City, La Trinidad and Bontoc in Mountain Province with its highest peak in Atok town set at 7,400 meters above sea level, officially the highest altitude highway in the Philippines.

The highway is still considered one of the world’s most dangerous with its twists, turns and ravines, however, it gives motorists a scenic view of the mountain ranges.

Historians note construction started in 1922 and was completed in 1930 as a foot trail, over the years it has continually developed.

(This story, first published at SunStar Baguio, was produced under the Bloomberg Initiative Global Road Safety Media Fellowship implemented by the World Health Organization, Department of Transportation and VERA Files.)


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