MANILA, Philippines-The 88.85- kilometer Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) inaugurated by Pres. Benigno Aquino III on Monday is eyed to be completed on 2015.

In a press statement, diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC), through its subsidiary, Private Infra Dev Corporation, Inc. (PIDC), the concessionaire of the 88.85- kilometer TPLEX, said they looking at finishing the project “three years ahead of schedule.”

The TPLEX, which is under a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) program being undertaken by the all-Filipino consortium, which includes DMCI Holdings Inc., was formally opened President Benigno S. Aquino III via an inaugural drive-through.

“In terms of construction, we are ahead of schedule. We are on track to delivering the entire length of TPLEX as early as 2015,” SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang said in statement.

Coinciding with the inaugural drive through is the opening of the expressway’s Paniqui exit, which brings to 23 kilometers the total length of the TPLEX that is operational, the statement further reads.

In October, PIDC opened the project’s 17-kilometer Phase 1A from Tarlac City to Victoria, Pura, then Gerona, for free, to the public.

Currently, work is ongoing on the 27-kilometer stretch from Paniqui to Moncada in Tarlac, then Carmen in Pangasinan, including the construction of the 950- meter Agno viaduct.

While this portion is slated for completion by December 2014, PIDC said that they expect to deliver as early as April next year. By then, the two-hour travel time from Tarlac to Carmen will be cut to only thirty minutes.

“Right now, we are waiting for the completion of the acquisition of the right-of- way for the 13.72-kilometer portion from the north bank of the Agno river up to Urdaneta. But our government is working on that. We are confident that we will complete this section up to Urdaneta as early as December 2014,” Ang said in a statement.

He added that the remaining 25.83-kilometer section from Urdaneta to Rosario, La Union, will be completed the following year, a full three years ahead of the original 2018 target.

The TPLEX, one of several infrastructure projects in San Miguel’s portfolio and its first greenfield tollway project, is seen as a vital road project in Luzon, connecting the central and northern Luzon provinces to Manila and beyond through the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and the North Luzon Expressway. From end-to-end, the TPLEX will traverse 17 towns and two cities (Tarlac and Urdaneta City) across four provinces: Tarlac, Pangasinan, La Union and Nueva Ecija.

“Originally designed as a two-lane road, SMC decided to upgrade the project to four lanes to ensure road safety and in anticipation of future traffic growth. It can be expanded up to eight lanes in the future. Once complete, it will cut travel time from Tarlac to La Union to only one hour.It is seen as a catalyst of growth, boosting tourism, trade, and agriculture in central and northern Luzon. By the time it is complete, it would have also generated about 12,000 jobs.”

The TPLEX boasts of many modern features found in world-class toll ways. These include a fleet of patrol cars and emergency assistance vehicles that can respond to motorists anywhere along the stretch within 10 minutes.

The TPLEX also comes with concrete barriers, guardrails, lighting and cameras in all toll plazas; signs, and pavement markings with powdered glass beads for enhanced visibility. Speed sensors are also deployed to ensure motorists keep to the 100-kilometers per hour limit.

“Toll plazas in major entry points are also equipped with electronic card dispensing machines. All installations will be fiber optic and internet-enabled. Culverts were also constructed at strategic points throughout the expressway to ensure that it will be flood-free,” the statement reads.

Meanwhile, Pres. Benigno Aquino III in his speech said that “together with the private partnership, who believe in the same vision that we have, then we will achieve the dreams sooner rather than later, and to that, really, it is truly a splendid Christmas gift.”

“We understand that the target now is not to finish this entire project by 2018, but rather earlier,” added Aquino.

Seeing the good news of the project, Aquino said that if Section 1 of TPLEX  will be completed next year, the usual two-hour travel time from Tarlac City to Rosales, Pangasinan will be reduced to 30 minutes.

“And if the entire TPLEX project will be completed, it will only take one hour trip from Tarlac city to Rosario, La Union, which today takes three hours and thirty minutes.”

“This is really a blessing to around 20,000 commuters that will be served daily. With the speedy transportation in Tarlac, this will also fast track tourism, commerce and services in nearby towns and provinces. The result: development in our local economy that will open more doors for opportunities to our countrymen,” Aquino said.

Also attending during the inauguration were Ramon S. Ang, President and CEO, San Miguel Corporation; Enrique M. “Henry” Cojuangco, Representative, Tarlac Disrict I; DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson;  Victor A. “Vic” Yap, Governor, Tarlac;  Congresswoman Susan Yap-Sulit; Congressman Noel Villanueva; Board member Cristy Angeles and the head of the “Board Members Spouses Foundation,” Vic Angeles; local officials and other stakeholders.