LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – The government needs at least P50 million to immediately replace the significantly damaged Balili bridge along the Halsema highway, particularly below the Provincial Capitol, for the safety and convenience of the travelling public.
Engr. Ireneo S. Gallato, district engineer of the Department of Public Works and Highways–First Benguet District Engineering District (DPWH-FBED), said that what is needed is a new structure compliant with current standards as the existing bridge is already past its prescribed 50-year economic life.
He also requested the concerned offices of the DPWH central office to come out with the appropriate design for the new structure for a safer and convenient travel among the motorists plying one of the busiest roads linking this capital town and other provinces in the Cordillera.
The Halsema highway spans from Km. 3 La Trinidad, Benguet passing through the towns of Tublay, Atok and Buguias in Benguet and the towns of Bauko, Sabangan and Bontoc in Mountain Province and ends up in Banaue, Ifugao.
Upon learning of the damages sustained by the old Balili bridge structure, Gallato immediately mobilized DPWH personnel to fabricate and install the appropriate road signages to guide motorists passing through the bridge, aside from getting in touch with municipal officials and police officers to help maintain the smooth flow of traffic in the portion of the road affected by the damaged bridge.
The district engineer disclosed the recommendation for a new structure was reached by technical experts is for the immediate replacement of the old structure that was constructed in 1961 and for the design of the new bridge structure to meet existing standards to handle the big trucks passing through the bridge.
“We are grateful to the provincial, municipal and barangay officials, as well as our police officers, who extended to us the needed assistance to ensure the smooth flow of traffic when the damage to the bridge structure was uncovered. We decided the damaged bridge structure be replaced instead of pursuing the programmed retrofitting to ensure the stability of the structure too be erected,” Engr. Gallato stressed.
The more or less 150-lineal meter Balili bridge is composed of 3 spans and 2 abatements built over the Balili River to link the capital town to other towns in northern Benguet.
According to him, motor vehicles having a gross weight of not more than 5 tons will be allowed to pass through the bridge while trucks, trailers, buses and other vehicles with a gross weight of more than 5 tons will be diverted to existing alternate routes such as the Shilan-Beckel road and the Tawang-Ambiong road.
Gallato added the agency was constrained to purchase metal plates via the emergency mode for the same to be laid over the damaged portion of the bridge to prevent the structure from incurring more cracks and holes that will eventually compromise its structural integrity thereby posing a serious threat to the safety of motorists.