Pasig River Expressway – PAREX
The Filipino government is planning to build an elevated highway on top of Pasig River. The highway will be almost 20 kilometers long and will traverse Metro Manila from west to south-east. It will connect Manila Bay with Laguna Lake, just like the river does. The project description foresees a six-lane highway that compromises four segments. The government hopes that it will decongest different city highways, like R-10, EDSA and C5. It will also connect to the Skyway, the elevated highway running from south to north.
The cost of the Pasig River Expressway (PAREX) is estimated at 81 billion pesos (1.4 billion euro). The project will be funded with toll revenues. The construction would take some 36 months. The first engineering analysis started in February 2021. By 2023 the highway should be ready.
The construction and exploitation are in hands of the Philippine National Construction Corporation and San Miguel Holdings Corporation. San Miguel owns different toll roads in the country, among others Skyway.
A lot of elevated constructions are crisscrossing the metropolitan area. The Pasig River Expressway is only an extra scar in the making. The San Juan River shows what PAREX could be like. Part of the river is covered with the Skyway Stage 3. The river has lost all its attraction. True, it was environmentally dead, but with a highway on top of it, it's guaranteed a giant sewer for the next thirty to fifty years.
Is this the future awaiting Pasig River?
The project of San Miguel was approved in August 2020, but – luckily – resistance is growing. People question if sacrificing the river is worth the traffic gains.
With PAREX Metro Manila will loose its access to her biggest waterway. Water is always an important component of a healthy city. Water has a positive impact on ones wellbeing, too. But this will anno 2021 be traded for a highway that caters at least 120.000 cars everyday, will cast a permanent shadow on the river and its surroundings and will create noise and air pollution in a city that already has its fair share of pollution.
Pasig River is not ideal today, but PAREX will mortgage all possible future ameliorations. The project is car-centric. It is not inclusive or people-centered. With PAREX, the revitalization of the river won't be possible. 'Cleaning' the river will fall into nowhere once it's semi covered.
Instead of investing billions of pesos in an elevated highway, the money could be used for greener programs with safe pedestrian pathways, protected bike lanes, a decent and regular ferry system, new pedestrian bridges and a lot of more green pockets and parks along the river.
The waterfront could be redesigned in an inviting public space, what will create new developments. Urban strategist Leandro Poco dropped an analysis on Twitter in which the river banks are expanded for cycleways, walkways and parkways. Those '-ways' connect the different parcels along the river, he writes. He also makes a statement for more bridges and more connectivity between the two river banks. Landscape architect Paulo Alcazaren is also on a roll and has written different posts on the Pasig River (Guadalupe, Braess Paradox, more bridges ).
A contemporary look at urbanism exists. Let's see if it can prevail on solutions that were popular last century...