About four years ago the government embarked on several expensive projects that aimed to give relief to thousands of Metro Manila motorists and commuters suffering from daily traffic gridlocks.
These projects include the construction of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), otherwise known as Metrostar Express. The three-year construction period for the new rail transit on EDSA, one of the metropolis' main thoroughfares, should have started in April 1996. But for one reason or another, this was delayed for about five months, or until October of that year. By December 16, 1999, 10 of 13 MRT stations to be put up on EDSA were already operational. Seven months later, all 13 stations were already servicing commuters.
The MRT project may be deemed relatively successful in the sense that it was actually completed despite some delay. After all, it is not unusual for government projects to end up half-done - that is, if they are ever started at all. In some cases, however, delays appear to become insufferable. And ultimately, the very people paying for those projects through their taxes end up carrying the heavy burden of government inefficiency.
Three years ago, the government started a major project that aimed to ease heavy vehicular traffic in the metropolis - the installation of a Smart Traffic Lighting System based on the Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System (SCATS). The three-year installation period for the project, which should have started in September 15, 1997, commenced not until later that year.
And to date, after almost three years of work, out of the 419 Metro Manila traffic lights covered by the project, only 331 have been upgraded as part of establishing a new control system for traffic signals. And of these upgraded lights, only 221 are actually online and are thus project-operational. Without doubt, the SCATS is another delayed government project. But who is to blame? And why was it delayed in first place?
Under the project contract, SCATS installation should have been completed on September 15. In short, the project should have been fully operational as early as two months ago. And it would have been a fitting Christmas gift for Metro Manila's suffering motorists and commuters.
Unfortunately, the project is no longer expected to be completed before the Yuletide season. And the reason? Bureaucratic red tape, it seems. At least one traffic official is quick to point out that tedious processing of permits for road diggings in 419 out of 432 "signalized" road intersections in the metropolis is the culprit. (Metro Manila used to have 444 "signalized" intersections. While some signals have just bogged down due to antiquity, many signals were also rendered inutile as their intersections were closed to give way to infrastructure projects.)
Metropolitan Manila Development Authority-Traffic Engireering Center (MMDA-TEC) Traffic Signal Operation and Maintenance Division chief Rolando A. Soliman claims that MMDA required the submission of clearances before it issued permits for the project contractor to start …