Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Saturday’s O Globo announced that Rio’s Mayor had sent an email to the IOC saying there’s a real possibility that Line 4, which would link Ipanema to the beginning of Barra da Tijuca, will not be ready in time for the Olympic Games, so they’d better look at some alternatives.
Ironically, Rio’s Mayor knows he isn’t responsible for the Metrô, where work began six years ago — that responsibility belongs to the State government (which is in denial), and to the Federal government (which is comatose).
What Hizzoner definitely knows is that there will be elections for Mayor in October of 2016, and he wants his anointed successor not to be tarred with a brush of having permitted the Olympics to become a fiasco. Metrô Line 4 was supposed to be the way people can get easily between the widely scattered venues of the Olympic events.
What Hizzoner also knows is that the only possible source of money to complete the project is BNDES, the government development bank. BNDES, however, after the Petrolão Scandal, has given up lending to big corrupt contractors unless they can prove there’s no funny business in the contract—a tall order these days.
So what’s Hizzoner’s Plan B? It’s to spend R$7.4 million of the city’s money to create Bus Rapid Transit lines from Ipanema to the Olympic HQ in Barra, so that 115 of those long “accordion” buses would rumble along Av. Vieira Souto, Av. Niemeyer and the Joá elevated highway.
Hizzoner knows Plan B is totally absurd: the buses don’t exist and the roadwork would take well over a year. But what’s important to him is to be seen as offering a solution that’s (according to him) more cost-efficient than the State of Rio borrowing R$1.3 billion from BNDES.
In the end, because Mayor Paes and Governor Pezão both support President Dilma, the Federal Government will find the money somewhere (don’t ask), and Metrô Line 4 will be inaugurated by the aforementioned Gleesome Threesome the week before the Opening Ceremony.
Postscript: On Monday, the State Secretary of Transport, who’s in charge of the Metrô works, resigned his position so as to be free to run for Mayor in 2018 – and he’s switching parties, from PMDB to PSDB. Paes is decidedly unhappy about that, but can’t do anything about it.
The Curmudgeon is a great believer in the Rio metrô, he rides it almost every day, and he sincerely hopes it will be a success during the Olympics. Believe it or not.