By Fiona Hurrell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Residents of Rio’s outer neighborhoods are set to reap the benefits from major new transportation links scheduled to be completed in time for the 2016 Olympic Games. Many areas will see vast improvements now that the city has secured R$1.63 billion (US$1 billion) to finance the construction of the BRT Transbrasil bus line and the Central LTR (Light Rail Transit) system.
It is hoped that the BRT Transbrasil will not only allow greater access, but will also boost tourism in the regions and even improve air quality due to less vehicle pollution.
The BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) Transbrasil project, stretching 32 km, will connect five terminals and stop at 28 stations. Beginning in Zona Oeste (West Zone) it will travel to Centro (Central Zone), allowing up to 40,000 passengers per hour at peak times. The project is scheduled for completion in just 36 months.
Starting its journey in Deodoro, the BRT will connect to the Santos Dumont Airport (Rio’s domestic airport) via Avenida Brasil, one of the main thoroughfares of Rio. Future transportation links will then cover other major highways, Presidente Vargas and Francisco Bicalho, thus providing powerful connections between the west, north and central regions of the city.
Speaking to the press, Mayor Eduardo Paes acknowledged that the date of completion may be tight but achievable and will not only provide quicker access to the Olympic sites but improve the day to day commute for residents. He stated “The Olympics will transform the city, but you think that athletes will use the BRT? This is work for the city, the people who [commute] every day.”
In order to implement the BRT Transbrasil project, a number of changes will have to be made to the landscape in Centro. According to Alexandre Pinto, Secretary for municipal works, two areas of the Canal do Mangue will be covered to make way for a gas station and BRT lanes traveling down Avenida Farncisco Bicalho.
In addition, a 400 foot-long underpass will be constructed at the end of Avenida Presidente Antônio Carlos, taking the buses beneath Avenidas Beira-Mar and General Justo, straight to Santos Dumont Airport.
The plans will also address the need for improved road paving and a stretch of the Avenida Brasil will be widened to create a select lane for BRT vehicles.
Rodolpho Fernandez, a resident from Rio’s suburbs is eagerly awaiting the improvements though he emphasizes that progress has a long way to go. “I think it is going to get much better but very far from London, especially when it took me four hours to get to the Airport last Thursday compared with just twenty minutes in London,” he said.
In addition, new drainage facilities will be built in the areas of Manguinhos, Bonsucesso, Ramos, Penha, Parada de Lucas, Vista Alegre and Trevo das Margaridas in preparation for the BRT to address the problem of flooding on the Avenida Brasil.
In an aim to reduce passenger stress and traffic congestion, three of the five BRT terminals will be positioned in a central hub around the Avenida Brasil, allowing passengers coming in to the city on trains from the west and coastal regions to transfer to the BRT without needing to purchase a different ticket.