Cagayan Valley’s ‘bad’ roads tagged crash hazards

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Motorists have assailed the “horrendous” road conditions and the ongoing road repairs and bridge construction projects on the national highway in Cagayan Valley region, which were supposedly blamed for a number of deaths and crashes in recent days.

The national road, also known as Maharlika Highway, has been the subject of endless complaints from travelers who have suffered from crashes, near-mishaps, long delays and inconvenient travel due to bad road conditions and frequent repairs.

On Friday morning, one Joan Mendez, 31, was killed after she was pinned to death by a trailer truck that went wayward as it ran over a bumpy portion of the asphalt road in Barangay (village) Baretbet in Bagabag town.
Mendez is the latest casualty of a series of road crashes along Maharlika Highway that are believed to be either directly caused, or contributed to by, the present “ugly” road conditions and numerous re-blocking and and widening, as well as bridge construction.

“We have never seen any considerable length of the Cagayan Valley road, especially the stretch in Nueva Vizcaya, that was free from repairs at any time of the year. It truly deserves the title as the road repair capital of the country,” said rice trader George Catolos of Isabela.

Often blamed as a frequent cause of crashes, near-mishaps road gridlocks are the ongoing repairs by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that either lack or have inappropriate road warning signs, or where traffic flow is often supposedly mismanaged.

Police officials said they are still collating data on the number of road crashes that were either directly or indirectly caused by the DPWH repairs and bad road conditions.

According to Rodolfo Torralba, chief of the DPWH 1st engineering district here, the site of Friday’s crash was slated for repair in 2016, but for unknown reasons, it was slashed from the projects that were implemented.

“We never neglected that problem; we were constantly trying to find a remedy,” he said in a phone interview, referring to the wrinkled asphalt road in Sitio (sub-village) Tapaya in Baretbet village.

Motorists also assailed the lacking and improper use of road signs at numerous road and bridge projects along the Maharlika Highway, which, they said, have become crash traps especially at night.

The newly-widened roads, which in many parts added two outer lanes to the existing highway, have also become drying pavements for palay and corn at various points in Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela and Cagayan and Quirino.

Other stretches have been used as parking spaces of cargo trucks, also posing as crash hazards.

Gridlocks often cause hours of delay at project sites where vehicles are made to pass the single-lane roads at intervals, manned by traffic aides tapped by the contractors.

Regional Director Melanio Briosos cannot be reached for comment, as he is supposedly out of the country. But in an earlier interview, he said he has repeatedly admonished erring contractors for failure to install road signages and for poor management of traffic.

“We never ceased on summoning contractors whenever we hear of complaints of these lacking road signs, telling them the dire consequences if crashes happen because of their projects. But it seems they don’t listen,” adding that they are considering recommending for blacklisting “notorious” contractors.

DPWH sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they have difficulty imposing sanctions on “stubborn” contractors because these have the backing of “influential” politicians in the region.#

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