By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – On December 17th Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes announced during an episode of the Globo channel’s RJTV news program that beginning in January areas of the city’s Avenida Rio Branco will be closed in order to continue construction work on the Veículo Leve sobre Trilhos/VLT (Vehicle on Light Tracks) project.
According to the mayor three lanes of Avenida Rio Branco will be closed to all traffic between the areas of Nilo Peçanha and Cinelândia beginning in January.
The area is currently accessible only by buses and taxis with passenger cars prohibited. During the upcoming construction, pedestrians will still be able to pass through the area on foot.
The first test run of the system with passengers took place earlier this year in November. The test train traveled successfully from the Museum of Art of Rio (MAR) to a stop located near the statute of Barão de Mauá.
The city has announced that each vehicle will have the capacity to carry 420 passengers. Officials estimate the system will transport upwards of 280,000 passengers each day once it is operational.
The VLT is a light rail train system that, once completed, will connect Rio’s Centro (Downtown area) with the Port Zone and the domestic airport Santos Dumont. Scheduled for completion during the first six months of 2016, the VLT will run an estimated 28km and feature six lines and 42 stations.
The estimated total cost of the VLT system is R$1.157 billion. Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are reportedly providing R$625 million of the total with the remaining R$532 million being supplied by federal funds and the government’s growth acceleration program, known as PAC (Aceleração do Crescimento).
The construction work on the VLT lines is scheduled for completion before the beginning of the 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympics Games.