Just in time for the All Saint’s Day long weekend, the soft opening of the first phase of the Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway or TPLEX finally proceeded last October 31. To celebrate this milestone (pun intended), we are marking the point where the Subic–Clark–Tarlac Expressway ends and the TPLEX begins. The two expressways are actually just one long road in the same way that the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and the STAR Tollway are now one road too. So maybe the whole of SCTEX-TPLEX should be named Subic–Clark–Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway or SCTPLEX? That’s certainly a mouthful. In reality, the whole road has the combined name of North Luzon West Expressway.
Just like most other big infrastructure projects in the country, TPLEX has been beset with delays. The idea of extending SCTEX farther north was conceived 10 years ago in 2003. The bidding for the project occurred in 2007 and the concession agreement with the winning bidder was signed in 2008. Construction then started in 2010.
The partial opening was to have happened back in May, and then August, until finally at the end of October when the Toll Regulatory Board approved the partial opening of the expressway last October 25. The opening gives motorists an additional 2 exits—Victoria and Gerona–Pura—stretching around 17 kilometers. This section is estimated to shave 40 minutes off between Manila and Baguio.
The rest of TPLEX’ Section 1, which goes all the way to Rosales, Pangasinan, will be opened by next year and finally, the whole of TPLEX to Rosario, La Union will hopefully be completed by 2016.
Despite being physically one road, SCTEX and TPLEX are operated by two different companies: Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC) and Private Infra Development Corporation (PIDC) respectively. Although I expect that payment schemes and tickets will be compatible, you still need a way to separate the two and I suspect that this this why there is a tollway plaza just north of the SCTEX–TPLEX junction.
Have you tried the newly soft-opened Tarlac–Pangasinan–La Union Expressway? Tell us how it is in the comments!