By Maria Lopez Conde, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — Both the Cantagalo and the General Osório metro stations in Rio were closed temporarily on Saturday. As the government announced in a press conference last Thursday, the Cantagalo station in Copacabana will close for fifteen days and reopen in March, while the General Osório stop, the only station in Ipanema, will shut down for at least ten months.
Originally planned for December 2012, these closures are part of the city’s ambitious plan to expand metro coverage and connect the existing lines to Line 4, currently in construction in Barra da Tijuca.
At General Osório, the city government plans to build a new platform that will increase the station’s passenger capacity and connect Ipanema to Barra without forcing travelers to change trains.
By the time Cantagalo reopens, the station should have a single train between Cantagalo and Copacabana’s Siqueira Campos station. All passengers starting their trip to Zona Norte (North Zone) at Cantagalo must disembark at Siqueira Campos to change trains.
“The Government of the State is implementing the metro’s Line 4 because this transportation’s system efficiency and its importance to Rio de Janeiro’s development are unquestionable,” said the state’s chief secretary of staff, Regis Fichtner, in a press release. “The metro has an enormous carrying capacity and brings benefits to traffic and the environment, removing cars and buses from the street. This is the realization of Rio’s longtime dream.”
While the construction is in place, the “Metro on the Surface” buses that used to depart from General Osório will leave from Siqueira Campos. The city is expected to provide additional buses and traffic reinforcement police in Copacabana to make up for the increased road traffic.
Although the project promises to benefit over 300,000 passengers per day once Line 4 is completed in 2016, the closures are sparking fears of increased traffic jams and overcrowded buses, especially in Ipanema, where over 30,000 Cariocas pass through the General Osório station daily.
For Maria Natividade dos Santos, travel time between her home and her workplace will surely increase. A maid in an apartment on the busy street of Visconde de Pirajá, it takes dos Santos two and a half hours to get to Ipanema from her house in the neighboring city of Nova Iguaçu.
Her daily commute includes buses to Central do Brasil and then a direct ride to General Osório. She estimates that the closings will add about 45 minutes to her commute. “It’s a big inconvenience that’s going to affect me very much,” dos Santos said. “It’s going to take me more buses, more traffic and more hours to get home at night, but what can I do?”
Sueli Regina makes her way from the municipality of Duque de Caxias to General Osório partly by metro every day. Regina, a domestic worker, complained about the government’s short notice, but said there’s nothing else for her to do about the closures other than “wake up earlier and plan ahead.”
Other metro users interpreted the closures as a necessary evil. Jocival Souza, a technical consultant for glass installations whose work usually takes him to homes all over Zona Sul (South Zone), especially Ipanema, knows the closures will complicate his job. However, Souza believes it is worth the sacrifice.
“It’s going to be complicated for me and my job, but if it’s for the development of the metro, I’m in. There is no way to improve something without causing inconveniences, and if that’s the price we have to pay to one day go to Barra easily, I’m all in,” Souza added.
Construction on Line 4 is expected to be concluded by December of 2015 and will go all the way to Barra, as well as include additional stops in Ipanema, Leblon, and São Conrado.