The entire road itself is a part of the Circumferential Road 4 (C-4) system, a network of roads and bridges that acts as the fourth beltway for the City of Manila. It is also a component of N1 (AH26) of the Philippine highway network. The locations around the avenue were marked with great economic and industrial growth, proven by the fact that all but 2 industrial centers in the Metropolis are directly accessible from the thoroughfare. The decent economic growth of the areas around the avenue adds a significant volume of traffic on the avenue, and in recent estimates, and an average of 2.34 million vehicles go through it every day. EDSA is a divided carriageway, often consisting of 12 lanes, 6 in either direction, with the elevated railroad Manila Metro Rail Transit System often serving as its median. EDSA is not an expressway, but traffic rules and speed limits are strictly implemented to the vehicles that pass along it. It is operated by the Metro Manila Development Authority and is maintained and constantly being repaired by the Department of Public Works and Highways.
EDSA starts from the Bonifacio Monument (Monumento) Roundabout in Gracepark, Caloocan, adjacent to the Apolonio Samson Road, the western side of the C-4 Road. The roundabout is also the marker of the 1896 Revolution by Andres Bonifacio. The 1.7 kilometers of the road are in Caloocan. The Avenue will then enter Quezon City through the Balintawak District, after an intersection with the North Luzon Expressway in the Balintawak Interchange.
EDSA crosses much of the northern part of Quezon City, passing through the Project 6 and Muñoz districts. It sharply curves southwards after crossing the North Avenue-West Avenue Intersection in the Triangle Business Park. On the north side of EDSA is the SM City North EDSA. In front of it is the TriNoma mall and the Eton Centris or Centris Walk. ABS-CBN Broadcasting Center and its transmitter can be easily seen from EDSA and continues southwards, slightly turning westwards slowly until it leaves the Triangle Park after crossing the East Avenue-Timog Avenue Intersection, where the GMA Network Center is located. It continues through the district of Cubao, entering the Araneta Center after crossing the Aurora Boulevard Tunnel. In Cubao, several malls, infrastructure and offices are located, most notably the Smart Araneta Coliseum, the biggest coliseum in Southeast Asia. The Avenue curves southwards and enters the Santolan and Socorro districts, where the twin military bases of Camp Rafael Crame and Camp Aguinaldo, are located. The Greenhills Shopping Center and the Eastwood City are also located nearby. EDSA then continues on its route and serves as the boundary of the cities of San Juan and Quezon City. The People Power Monument can be seen on the north side of EDSA in the White Plains Avenue junction. After the 11 kilometers of EDSA in Quezon City, the Avenue will eventually leave the city and enter the City of Mandaluyong. EDSA enters Mandaluyong after crossing the borders of the Ortigas Center. In the Ortigas Center, some notable buildings around the area are the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration building, Robinsons Galleria, SM Megamall, Forum Robinsons (Robinsons Pioneer), and the bronze EDSA Shrine, a memorial church to the 1986 Revolution. It then curves smoothly westwards after it crosses the Pioneer Street, and crosses the Pasig River via the Guadalupe Bridge and leaving the City of Mandaluyong.
It enters the city of Makati after crossing the Pasig River, passing through the districts of Guadalupe, Comembo and Magallanes. In Guadalupe, EDSA provides access to the Rockwell Center, a major mixed-use business park in Makati. The highway also provides quick access to the city of Taguig and the Bonifacio Global City nearby. After crossing Buendia Avenue, the highway enters the Ayala Center, an important industrial district in the Philippines, where the Greenbelt and Glorietta shopping centers are located. The road then curves eastwards and continues on a straight route to the city of Pasay.
EDSA enters Pasay shortly after crossing the South Luzon Expressway in Makati. In Pasay, the highway provides access to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport via a flyover. EDSA enters the Baclaran Shopping Center and continues eastward until it enters the Bay City reclamation area, where the large SM Mall of Asia is located. EDSA's terminus is at a rotunda in front of the Globe of the SM Mall of Asia.
The lead agency that manages the flow of traffic along EDSA is the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), an agency that is under the Office of the President and is advised by the Metro Manila Mayors League. One of the MMDA's traffic management schemes that is in effect on EDSA, among other major thoroughfares in the metropolis, is the Uniform Vehicular Volume Reduction Program.
Many have observed that the cause of many traffic jams on EDSA are erring buses and jeepneys. Subsequently, buses have been the target of other traffic management programs, like the MMDA's Organized Bus Route Program. The MMDA is strictly implementing also the Motorcycle and Bus laning in EDSA, making it the second highway in the Philippines ever to have such traffic rule to be enforced, after Commonwealth Avenue. The average speed of vehicles in EDSA is 15 kilometres per hour (9.3 mph).
From January 18, 2016, strict implementation on bus lanes started on the Shaw-Guadalupe segment, where plastic barriers are placed and prohibited entry of private vehicles and taxis on the bus lanes except when turning to EDSA's side streets. Despite the plastic barrier, many private vehicles still enter the lanes.
Construction of what was then called the "North-South Circumferential Road" started in the 1930s, during the term of the President Manuel L. Quezon, with the construction team led by engineers Florencio Moreno and Osmundo Monsod.
The road, starting from the North Diversion Road (today the North Luzon Expressway) and ending at the current Magallanes Interchange with the South Luzon Expressway, was finished in 1940, shortly before World War II and the subsequent Japanese occupation of the Philippines. After the independence of the Philippines in 1946, the road was renamed Avenida 19 de Junio (June 19 Avenue), after the birth date of national hero José Rizal.
In the 1950s, the avenue had been renamed Highway 54, because of the common misconception on that time that the avenue is 54 km long. Rizalists wanted the avenue's name to be kept as 19 de Junio, while President Ramon Magsaysay wanted the avenue be named after Rizal. Rizal Province residents, however, wanted the avenue to be named after a Rizaleño, a historian, jurist and scholar named Epifanio de los Santos y Cristóbal. The Philippine Historical Committee (now the National Historical Commission of the Philippines), the Philippine Historical Association, the Philippine Library Association, Association of University and College Professors, the Philippine China Cultural Association, and the Philippine National Historical Society, led by fellow Rizaleños Eulogio Rodriguez Sr. and Juan Sumulong, supported the renaming of Highway 54 to Epifanio de los Santos Avenue.
On April 7, 1959, de los Santos' birthday, Republic Act No. 2140 was passed, renaming the avenue to honor him. Rapid urbanization in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly during the annexation of several Rizal towns to the newly formed National Capital Region, marked the growth of the industrial centers along the road, and several other roads connected to the avenue, such as Ayala Avenue and the McKinley Road in Makati.
During the tenure of President Ferdinand Marcos, traffic jams in the avenue started to build up. Several interchanges were constructed to relieve congestion, including the Balintawak and Magallanes Interchanges at the ends of the avenue. Later, with the implementation of the Metro Manila Arterial Road System in 1965, in order to complete the Circumferential Road 4 system, EDSA was extended to Taft Avenue from the South Luzon Expressway (the extension was called F. Rein Avenue), and further to Roxas Boulevard (the extension was called P. Lovina Avenue). EDSA was also extended from its original Balintawak terminus to the Apolonio Samson Road at the site of the Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan, completing the Circumferential Road 4 system. Through all these up until the mid-80s many parts of the roadway still overlooked vast grasslands and open fields.
In 1986, Philippine president Ferdinand E. Marcos's political opponents revolted against his 20-year dictatorial government, seizing the Camp Rafael Crame and Camp Aguinaldo military bases, both located along EDSA situated in between a currently cited wealthy subdivision named the Corinthian Gardens, and two commercial districts of the metropolitan, one at the entrance of Quezon City and Ortigas in Mandaluyong. On February 25, 1986, Epifanio de los Santos Avenue gained worldwide attention as the site of the peaceful People Power Revolution that toppled President Marcos, led by Corazon Aquino. The majority of the demonstrations took place on a long stretch of the avenue, involving over two million Filipino civilians including as well as several known political, military, and religious groups led by Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Archbishop of Manila.
The site of the change of history marked a stand for historical monuments found in the site that occurred. The landmark of this history begins at the entrance of Mandaluyong with very tall statue of Mary (mother of Jesus Christ) coated with golden color of paint mixed with bronze stones, spanning along EDSA, a monument of a giant steel metal formed with hundreds of people standing upon a circular podium-like pyramid with a nun at the center reaching up to the heavens found leading to the gates of the Corinthian Gardens. The main venue of the revolution was supposed to destroy the camps leaving a peaceful note of painting the longest mural in the Philippines with a length of 2.4 kilometers on the high 8 feet walls of the camps along EDSA displaying a symbol of a vow, peace and harmony.
After the People Power Revolution, the avenue had been commonly known as EDSA, and the southern extensions were merged into the avenue. In 1997, the Manila Metro Rail Transit System began construction, being built over EDSA from North Avenue to Taft Avenue during the presidency of Joseph Estrada.
The Second EDSA Revolution resulted in the peaceful ousting of Joseph Estrada, the thirteenth President of the Philippines. Estrada was succeeded by his Vice-President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was sworn into office by then-Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. at around noon on January 20, 2001, several hours before Estrada fled Malacañang Palace.
In 2006, the avenue was further extended from Roxas Boulevard to the SM Mall of Asia, where it now ends at the Mall of Asia Globe and roundabout. Also, in 2006, the avenue was badly damaged in September, when Typhoon Milenyo hit Manila.
In 2010, the Manila LRT Line 1 (LRT-1) of the Manila Light Rail Transit System was extended from Monumento to Roosevelt, ultimately transversing EDSA to end at the site of the current North Avenue MRT Station.
In August 2012, prior to the Congressional hearing of a controversial reproductive health bill proposal, the Catholic Church assembled a mass rally on EDSA to show opposition to the proposal.
On February 25, 2015, a protest rally calling for the resignation of President Benigno Aquino III took place on EDSA where thousands of people from various socio-civic, political and religious groups were involved. The protest rally only remained until the EDSA-Santolan area because of police barricades that prevented the protesters from going near the People Power Monument.
On August 27-31, 2015, Iglesia ni Cristo members staged demonstrations in EDSA to call on Former DOJ Sec. Leila De Lima to focus on important issues such as the SAF 44 case and not on the case filed by an ex-INC minister against Sanggunian members. They protests on alleged violations of the separation of church and state.
On September 9, 2015, the Philippine National Police (PNP) deployed the Highway Patrol Group on EDSA to control the heavy traffic congestion along with MMDA traffic constables on EDSA's congested segments.
Kilometers, based on numbers found on yellow kilometer stones along the road, count clockwise from kilometer 9, near the Bonifacio Monument. Rizal Park is used as Kilometer Zero. The section west of Roxas Boulevard towards SM Mall of Asia is not included on the official count, since they are not original parts of EDSA.
An overpass over the North Avenue-West Avenue Intersection and Mindanao Avenue Junction in the Triangle Park and a Flyover over Congressional Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue Intersection in Munoz are already approved, and may start construction in 2013.
In 2011, Bohol Representative Rene Lopez Relampagos filed House Bill (HB) No. 5422, proposing to rename Epifanio de los Santos Avenue as "Corazon Aquino Avenue." The proposal is currently pending in the Philippine House of Representatives before the House Committee on Public Works and Highways. According to Relampagos, the idea to rename EDSA after Aquino (who led the 1986 People Power) was conceptualized in the aftermath of her death.
On April 2, 2013, then President Noynoy Aquino gave the green light for the construction of a flyover at the perennially traffic-choked corner of Edsa and Taft Avenue in Metro Manila.
On June 28, 2016. It President Shrine to be Constructed Toll Barriers
The project is estimated to cost P2.8 billion, with the flyover extending to about 1.4 kilometers each side and it will take one and a half years to complete the project.
After stricter implementation of bus lanes and barrier separation through plastic barriers, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will start to replace the orange barriers with a concrete permanent barrier used to separate the bus lanes from private vehicle lanes.
EDSA is featured in the film The Bourne Legacy. Portions of the road from Magallanes Interchange to Taft Avenue were featured in a car chase wherein Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner, jumps from the Taft Avenue footbridge to a plying bus. Also, every February 25, the day of the EDSA People Power Revolution, the statues in the People Power Monument in the White Plains junction were repainted and yellow flags were placed on their hands, in order to commemorate the successful revolution.
EDSA is also continuously being used in political campaigns by several politicians, particularly those who had been involved in the EDSA Revolution such as Joseph Estrada and Benigno Aquino III.