By Anna Fitzpatrick, Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The initial growth acceleration program, or PAC, planned for 2007 to 2010, earmarked investments of R$504 billion (US$306 billion) to be spent on infrastructure issues. Of that, R$346.5 billion was earmarked for projects in São Paulo, the state responsible for 34 percent of the country’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
Infrastructure projects have been the priority nationwide, and of the nearly 14,000 projects included in PAC and PAC2, approximately 1,200, or just 8 percent, were destined for São Paulo.
The investments sought to expand the existing logistical infrastructure, improve traffic in metropolitan areas and eliminate operational bottlenecks in the ports and railways.
Perhaps the most tangible PAC investments were defined to increase São Paulo’s 62.3 km of metro lines to be on par with other large cities, such as Mexico City (200 km of subway), Paris (213 km) and Madrid (283.8 km).
Investments of R$2.1 billion have been made to expand the Line 2 metro, also called the “Paulista Line” because it goes along much of the Avenida Paulista, connecting Vila Madalena and Vila Prudente stations. Started in 2009, the line is still under construction.
The construction of Line 4 metro has also been part of PAC infrastructure plans. New stations on Avenida Faria Lima and Avenida Paulista were inaugurated in 2010 and will go some way towards easing stressed bus routes in some of the city’s most important and densely populated districts from the city center to the West Zone. However, work is behind schedule and stations along the line are still closed and not expected to open until next year.
Another massive project included in PAC was the proposal for the high speed rail link between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Plans for the R$33.1 billion railway project have been postponed a number of times and the project has yet to pass the tendering stage, which is now scheduled for the end of April.
Fears that the train will not be in place before the 2014 World Cup were confirmed in December by Bernardo Figueiredo, the General Manager of the ANTT (Ministry of Transport), who stated he hoped it would be complete by the Olympics in 2016.
Instead of expanding, the PAC infrastructure program Porto Sem Papel (ports without paper), aimed to reduce paperwork for port operations, diminishing a vessel’s time stopped in port by 25 percent and halving the time it takes to export cargo. Despite a pilot run last year at the Port of Santos, the program has yet to be put into full service.
Non-transport related projects included favela upgrading in Heliopolis, new homes in the area of Embu and investment in a new stadium for the 2014 World Cup. Deadlines have already been missed for the new stadium development, and the city has been warned it may lose the opportunity to host games.
Though only 12 percent of the projects (137 projects) had been completed by April 2010 according to a report by NGO Contas Aberta, São Paulo has not been the only place facing project delays. According to the report, progress nationwide has been slow due to excessive bureaucracy, environmental problems and stalling in the release of funds.
Critics aside, the second phase of the policy, PAC 2 has been launched, with the Lula administration pledging a further R$958.9 billion. Minister of Planning, Miriam Belchior announced that proposed projects of PAC2 would begin in March this year.