Infra Manila

Infra Manila: The Mega Manila Subway Project

With so many infrastructure developments going on in the metropolis, especially in light of the government’s current “Build, Build, Build” program. It is but proper that the Urban Roamer spotlight these projects, whether they are planned, under construction, or completed, and how they have changed/will change the metropolis’ landscape

This article is long overdue. But things got in the way and, originally, the intent was to discuss all the “Build, Build, Build” projects. But as things developed, it made sense to focus on one of the most ambitious projects (if not the most ambitious) in the “Build, Build, Build” program of the Duterte administration: the Mega Manila Subway.

The idea of a subway in Metro Manila was something being considered for quite a long time as a way to help alleviate the worsening traffic in the metropolis and to help move people faster and easier. But a somewhat firm concept of a subway was conceived with the help of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as part of its “Dream Plan” for Metro Manila, which was a comprehensive urban development plan to help decongest Metro Manila and improve the connectivity within the metropolis and surrounding areas (which, by the way, the Urban Roamer has touched upon some time ago).

The Mega Manila subway itself is part of a more extensive mass transit line project that would run from San Jose del Monte City in Bulacan to Dasmariñas City in Cavite. The subway itself is the Phase 1 of the project, that will run from Mindanao Avenue at the corner of Quirino Highway up to FTI complex which is to be redeveloped as a transport and commercial hub.

JICA made an extensive study on the Mega Manila subway in 2015. If you like reading studies on urban planning the JICA project study is a fascinating read which you can check out here. Interestingly, the plan put forward 3 proposed routes for the underground component of the line, AKA the subway part. As can be seen in the image below, Option 1 closely follows the EDSA alignment from Quezon Avenue to Boni Serrano Avenue before diverting eastward to Ortigas Center, Option 2 uses the Timog-Gilmore-Ortigas Avenue alignment up to Ortigas Center, while Option 3 follows the Timog-Quezon Avenue-Araneta Avenue-V. Mapa-Shaw Boulevard-Wack Wack alignment to Ortigas Center. From Ortigas Center, the 3 follow the same alignment up to FTI.

From the time the JICA Study and the publicity of the Metro Manila Dream Plan came out, nothing much was heard from it for about a year, which is understandable considering it was election season. And to the Duterte Administration’s credit, it did not dismiss the Dream Plan outright despite it being proposed during a previous administration that it was not aligned with. In fact, many of the projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program of the administration are based on the projects recommended by the JICA Dream Plan.

As far as the Mega Manila Subway project is concerned though, there were some noticeable changes made along the way. When the “Build, Build, Build” project was unveiled to the public last April 20, it seems that a new alignment was chosen, as can be seen below.

image courtesy of nelo via Skyscrapercity

Based on the information gathered, the Mega Manila Subway line will consist of the following stations to be built:

  1. Mindanao Avenue (near Quirino Avenue, identified in the original JICA plan)
  2. Tandang Sora (identified in the original JICA plan)
  3. North Avenue (near Mindanao Avenue, identified in the original JICA plan)
  4. Quezon Avenue (near EDSA, new alignment)
  5. East Avenue (near V. Luna, new alignment)
  6. Anonas (near Kamias or Aurora Boulevard new alignment)
  7. Katipunan Avenue (near Boni Serrano, new alignment)
  8. Ortigas North (Ortigas Avenue cor. Meralco Avenue, identified in the original JICA plan)
  9. Ortigas South (Ortigas Avenue cor. Shaw Boulevard, identified in the original JICA plan)
  10. Kalayaan (cor. Lawton Avenue, identified in the original JICA plan)
  11. Bonifacio Global City (at 38th Street between Bonifacio High Street and Market Market, identified in the original JICA plan)
  12. Cayetano Avenue (near C5, identified in the original JICA plan)
  13. FTI (identified in the original JICA plan)
  14. NAIA (not part of the JICA plan but is being pushed by the Department of Transportation as a spur line, probably to be located near Terminal 3)

Please note though that until the contract is signed, the stations listed are just proposed and not yet considered final. Thus, there are some conflicting reports regarding the stations to be built and where they and the tracks will be placed. (some reports do not list Tandang Sora as a possible station, which would be a shame since it is a major intersection that deserves to be served by a station there)

From a technical standpoint, it makes one curious to find out how this alignment, which we will call Option 4, came to be when it was not one of the suggested options by JICA. Could it be a case of the bureaucrats deciding they know better than the technocrats in JICA or if this was an alignment that JICA had in mind as well only that this has not yet been published. Don’t get me wrong, I have no issues with this new alignment. I just hope this was made with due consideration to many factors which JICA does in its studies.

Phase 1 of the Mega Manila Subway is expected to cost over Php 220 billion and is expected to be greenlit by the signing of the official development assistance (ODA) deal between Pres. Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in November this year. Once it is done, the Department of Transportation will work on fast-tracking the project for completion by 2024. Here’s hoping that this ambitious project would come into fruition after years of neglect as far as infrastructure building is concerned.


Acknowledgements to Build Build Build, JICA, Skyscrapercity, and Thinkingpinoy on Facebook

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