It’s not every day that I get to be invited for a sneak preview of an expressway segment that’s going to open in a matter of days! The North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) Segment 10, also known as “Harbor Link”, starts off in Valenzuela City where Segment 9 ends. This is the latest of the government’s projects opening soon in partnership with the private sector, in this case, NLEX Corporation. It’s been several years since it started, hampered from opening earlier due to right-of-way issues. With the ever-growing metropolis that is Manila, we desperately need more roadways that will allow people to skip major sections of the city.

train, railway
A train is stationed along PNR’s tracks beneath NLEX Segment 10.

Segment 10 was borne out of a plan to construct an elevated roadway on top of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) train tracks. This makes it easier for the new expressway segment to cut across long stretches of the cities of Valenzuela, Caloocan, and Malabon without having to displace that many households along the way. The design, though, has to be done in such a way that it will not constrict the train line as it is also being resurrected in the form of the North-South Commuter Rail (NSCR) project, another government endeavor this time on mass transit.

The control center of the NLEX-SCTEX system.

The Harbor Link Tour

Our tour started at the NLEX Headquarters near the Balintawak Toll Plaza, where Mr. Kit Ventura, AVP for Corporate Communication, welcomed us alongside a hearty breakfast. It followed with an awesome presentation of their command center, which monitors daily activities in the expressway system, noting traffic incidents, maintenance activities, and others throughout the day.

After that, it was time for the main event. We boarded our coaster and proceeded to the Smart Connect Interchange. It was also my first time going in this direction, towards Karuhatan, so I could barely contain my amazement as we entered the still-restricted area of Segment 10!

Engineer RC, who was our tour guide on that day.

Engineer RC accompanied us in the tour, giving pertinent information about the project as we rolled along the westbound lane at about 20 Kph. He mentioned how they used the latest technologies to build, build, and build Segment 10 despite encountering several issues. Some of the areas like the on-ramps from MacArthur Highway are still under construction, but pretty much by towards the end of this week, people can already zoom all the way to C3 Road in Caloocan City coming from the northern provinces.

A provision for the PNR carriageway in between the westbound and eastbound lanes of Segment 10.

This was taken when we stopped by the Tullahan River. The central portion has space allocated for the PNR carriageway, which has already started construction up north in Malolos City.

Harbor Link Features

The roadway is “2 x 3”, meaning three lanes each for the westbound and eastbound directions. As Engr. RC said, Segment 10 stretches for some 5.65 Km to C3 Road, and this reminds me of the Candaba Viaduct that connects Bulacan and Pampanga provinces. Just like Candaba Viaduct when they expanded from two to three lanes, they made sure that there will still be provision for vehicles that unfortunately encounter some problems, in the way of lay-bys that are strategically positioned every several hundred meters along the road.

A portion of a lay-by where stalled vehicles can stay along the expressway.

Every so often, there are also those “movable barriers” that they designed in case there needs to be an extra expansion lane for one direction (and the other direction is relatively lighter).

The erstwhile PNR compound, now the construction yard of NLEX Corp.
Higgins Hall seen at right, directly adjacent to the eastbound lane.

I also finally got to see Higgins Hall, a heritage structure in the PNR that NLEX Corp. also managed to find a way to avoid demolishing. All around it was the PNR compound, which used to be maintenance yards for trains, converted into staging areas for the girders that needed to be constructed, which made it easier and faster to deliver to the affected areas, instead of them coming from elsewhere.

All in all, it took us roughly two hours to complete the tour, what with everyone wanting a piece of history with their cameras! When it finally opens this week to the public, it will only take motorists a mere five minutes to get to Caloocan, running at 100 Kph.

It was a very amazing preview of things to come, and just like your favorite superhero movies, there’s even more to come! At the very end of the off-ramp going to C3, we have also seen the next stages to come — the so-called NLEx-SLEx connector road, also running on top of PNR’s right-of-way, eventually merging with Skyway Stage 3 near Plaza Azul in Manila.

C3 Exit at right. At the far end is then the continuation of the expressway, where the NLEX-SLEX Connector starts, which will eventually connect with Skyway Stage 3 in Plaza Azul in Manila.

Looking Ahead

There is a lot of exciting progress in Philippine infrastructure today! I’m not a car nut (as I mostly am on a bike), but I am nonetheless thrilled to see this for myself, as having these projects will enable everyone to get to their destinations in a streamlined way. Kudos to the team involved, from the big bosses, all the way down to the engineers, foremen, and carpenters who have poured their energies into making this finally possible. Thank you and here is my hope that in doing these projects, we get to see a more progressive Philippines in the near future!