By Mary Carroll, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The construction of the six new Line 4 Metro stations in Leblon and Ipanema is continuing to prove controversial, as residents react to major roadway and pedestrian detours. The metro (subway) line, which is being built to reach Barra da Tijuca before the 2016 Olympics, will increase mobility in a traffic congested city, however not without some growing pains.
In Leblon, the congestion is unlikely to ease anytime soon, as key routes are blocked off to accommodate construction of the metro line. Since November 24th, drivers have not been able to pass through Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva.
Passage between Rua General Venâncio Flores and Avenida Bartolomeu will also be blocked for drivers, as well as avenues Afrânio de Melo Franco and Borges de Medeiros. Adding to the ire of locals is a loss of 118 parking spaces in the neighborhood.
British expatriate and owner of Mekong restaurant in Lebon, Mary Byker, describes. “It’s a little early to say about mobility as the road scheme is just starting. I think from next week we will get a better idea of what it will be like over the next couple of years.”
In a positive light Byker explained, “I think a lot of people are happy to have a metro line in Leblon, so they realize that they will have to put up with a certain amount of traffic chaos [...] Let’s just hope that in the long run the metro reduces the amount of cars on the roads, as Rio is becoming far too congested.”
While driving through Leblon will face new challenges, some residents in Leblon are also concerned about walk-ways along Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva. The concern is that fencing erected around the construction site has left narrow, dimly lit sidewalks that are dangerous for pedestrians.
One resident expressed her concern that the fencing was “so high that it will transform the side walk in death row. I cannot even go out at night any more to walk my dog. We need more lighting and security,” pensioner Beatriz Fialho, 59, told Globo.
The new station in Ipanema has also upset residents. Shortly after work commenced on in October, six residents from the Ipanema Security Project sought an injunction to stop construction at the Praça Nossa Senhora da Paz station.
Ignez Barreto, the coordinator of the group told O Globo: “There are techniques that enable construction without leaving a gaping hole on the square. We want transparency.”
Residents feared that excavations would damage buildings and trees in the square. They organized several demonstrations and managed to gather nineteen thousand signatures for a petition to halt works on the line. Barreto complained that the government is unwilling to discuss the issues with the residents.
The judge overseeing the case granted the injunction on behalf of the six residents. However, later in October the decision was overturned when the Rio state government successfully argued that there had been three years of studies and designs in preparation for the project.
In addition to the roadway closures and construction of new metro stations, in December the last two stops on Line 1 will be closed. Both General Osório and Cantagalo stations to be connected by a walking tunnel to the Siqueira Campos station in Copacabana, which will temporarily be the last Line 1 Metro train stop.
Construction on Line 4 is expected to be concluded by December of 2015, will carry more than 300,000 people per day, and is expected to remove approximately 2,000 vehicles from the roadways during peak hour. Certainly for Barra da Tijuca, where over half of the 2016 Olympic Games will be held, there is much anticipation for the major infrastructure improvement.