San Jose Bridge: What went before
By Jose B. Perez, Editor PILI, Camarines Sur --- While it took more than a year to be completed and another year for it to be formally inspected and inaugurated by no less than President Noynoy Aquino on his final term, it also took about two years hence that cracks and holes begin to show on the southern approach and middle portion of the P85M San Jose Bridge in this capital town. Records at the DPWH second engineering district in Canaman, Camarines Sur show that effectivity of the project started on January 1, 2014 but it was on February 15 of the same year that the bridge was closed to traffic because of the needed repair works that converted it altogether from a two lane bridge into a four lane span, in pursuance of the government’s widening program for roads and bridges under the Aquino administration. Project contract for Phases 1 & 2 was granted to NFH Construction and Supply at combined amount of P72.32M, more or less, while Phase 3 was awarded to Philworks at smaller amount of P12.68M. The old two-lane bridge was projected to be expanded into four-lanes with a total length of 65.25 lineal meters and with a width of 16.84 lineal meters. The district engineer then was Simplicio D. Gonzales with Danilo E. Dequito as regional director of the DPWH, the project’s implementing agency. While project duration required 180 days and 160 days for Phases 1 and 2, respectively, it apparently took more than the stipulated construction period because of suspension orders due to construction delays and specification requirements. Horrible traffic was experienced by Bicol-Manila-Bicol and Naga-Legazpi-Naga travelers during the long construction period because the detour bridge was not enough to accommodate the pile up of buses from opposite directions and the inefficient way that the DWPH engineering district concerned handled both the worsening construction and traffic situations. It even took Malacanang to order a rerouting scheme advising motorists entering Bicol to take either of the three alternate routes: San Fernando–Minalabac–Bula–Pili Road; Milaor–Minalabac–Pili Road; and Palestina–Minalabac–Pili Road. But still, traffic along the Maharlika highway in this town refused to settle down. And motorists were agitated as ever, incurring more expenses for truckers, bus operators, even small-time businessmen who had to transport their commodities at the shortest distance and time possible, or else lose their meager profit. San Jose Bridge was first constructed in 1964 and had its first rehabilitation in 1970. It also underwent major repairs in 1984 carried out by then Ministry of Public Highways, now DPWH. Several months after its reported completion, then President Benigno S. Aquino III led the inspection of the San Jose Bridge and a drive-through inauguration of the nearby Pili Diversion Road Widening Project, also in this town. According to the President, rehabilitation of the roads and bridges in the region was part of the ongoing nationwide strategic infrastructure development program of the DPWH. It had so far allotted Camarines Sur with P15.96B—three times worth the P4.73B budget allotment in 2005 until 2010. These infrastructure projects had been strategically selected to promote local tourist destination sights. Then Liberal Party vice-presidential candidate Leni G. Robredo, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio “Babes” Singson, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, Interior and Local Government Mel Senen Sarmiento, Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad and then Pili Municipal Mayor Alexis San Luis II joined the President during the inauguration and inspection rites.