Past and Cu­ri­ous

Road con­struc­tion through the years

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Contents -

Roads around the world were orig­i­nally tracks that later be­came trails. The ar­rival of the wheel, first in an­cient Sumer, Me­sopotamia, made trav­el­ing more rapid and less stren­u­ous. As com­merce grew, the tracks or trails were of­ten flat­tened or widened to ac­com­mo­date hu­man and an­i­mal traf­fic. The Ro­mans paved roads with gravel and stones so mo­bi­liza­tions of troops even dur­ing the rainy sea­sons weren’t ham­pered.

With the preva­lence of horse-drawn car­riages and steam-op­er­ated ve­hi­cles, there was a de­mand for bet­ter roads. The “Good Roads Move­ment” was very in­flu­en­tial in the US from the 1870s to the 1920s. In the Philip­pines, how­ever, the Spa­niards never both­ered to im­prove the road sys­tem. Most prov­inces were not con­nected by roads—de­lib­er­ately done to de­ter pos­si­ble uni­fi­ca­tion and re­bel­lion. To the end of the Span­ish colo­nial pe­riod, the Philip­pines had less than 1,600km of good roads, and 2,600 bridges and cul­verts.

The first au­to­mo­bile ar­rived here in 1900. As more cars ar­rived in 1902, there was a clamor for bet­ter roads. But no ac­tion was ini­ti­ated by the in­su­lar govern­ment. Many thor­ough­fares were still in de­plorable state. The idea of trav­el­ing any­where be­yond the Manila City limit of three miles was too ridicu­lous to be con­sid­ered.

The Philip­pine Road law was en­acted on July 13th, 1906. The Bureau of Pub­lic Works was tasked to lead the con­struc­tion of pri­or­ity road and bridge re­quire­ments of the govern­ment. Con­struc­tion of good roads lead­ing north and south of Manila im­me­di­ately com­menced.

In 1909, Gover­nor-Gen­eral Cameron Forbes or­dered fur­ther con­struc­tion of roads and bridges all over the coun­try, es­pe­cially in Lu­zon. Routes from South­ern Lu­zon to North­ern Lu­zon still had dead-end ob­struc­tions. The Alatco bus, the first pub­lic bus in 1910, could do no more than go around Bi­col and Ca­marines prov­inces.

The Manila-to-Baguio route via Angeles, Pam­panga, was also non ex­is­tent; trav­el­ers had to fol­low the old Manila North Road via Manila, Nueva Ecija, and Tar­lac to reach Camp One and be­yond. Di­rect travel to Pam­panga be­came pos­si­ble only af­ter other sec­tions of the Manila North Road were fin­ished in the 1920s. It was re­named MacArthur High­way in 1961.

Miguel Lopez de Legazpi com­mis­sioned the build­ing of Cebu’s Colon Street in 1565. Named af­ter Colum­bus, it is the old­est street in the coun­try. Puente Col­gante, a pedes­trian toll sus­pen­sion bridge opened in 1852, be­came the Que­zon Bridge in 1940. Opened in 1905, Ken­non Road be­came the first route to Baguio City. Manila streets were first to be con­cretized in 1962. Planned in 1965, the Pan-Philip­pine High­way made pos­si­ble the Laoag-to-Zam­boanga route via RORO ser­vices. La­gus­ni­lad, the first un­der­ground pass, was in­au­gu­rated in 1966. NLEX and SLEX were opened from 1968 to 1969. San Juanico Bridge, which has con­nected Sa­mar and Leyte since 1973, is still the long­est bridge in the coun­try.

The epic of road con­struc­tion, main­te­nance and stan­dard­iza­tion did not stop even af­ter 20,780km com­pleted by the end of 1935. A decade ago, 216,016km were com­pleted. Tra­di­tional pro­ce­dures are com­ple­mented by mod­ern meth­ods for bet­ter high­ways, un­der- and over­passes, in­ter-is­land bridges, and tun­nels. And def­i­nitely, more is to come.

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