By Claire Rivé, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The construction of the long awaited Metro Line 4 through connecting Zona Sul (South Zone) to Barra da Tijuca has been making steady progress this year with its completion in time for the Olympic Games looking like an attainable deadline. However frustration with traffic disruption, as well as the impact on businesses and local safety are raising concerns with the development.
It is estimated that the already vastly over budget Line 4 will serve more than 300,000 users daily upon its completion in 2016 and cut the Barra commute down to 15 minutes to Ipanema and 34 minutes to Centro.
This will be a massive improvement for the city’s transport system and those facing the daily bottle-neck traffic jams that can drag on for hours on the highway that connects Barra to other parts of the city will no doubt rejoice once the line is functioning. Until then, it’s the residents of the Zona Sul who are facing a new set of challenges.
Due to underground drilling for Line 4, as of Saturday, March 24th several lanes along Rua Visconde de Pirajá have been closed, and buses rerouted to the beachfront via Avenida Vieira Souto (along the beach). The traffic bottleneck and new bus routes have caused inconveniences for Ipanema’s pedestrians and vehicles moving through the area.
Construction has also had an influence on business for traders located along the construction route in Ipanema and Leblon as losses of revenue have been reported due of reduced accessibility and visibility of stores and restaurants as a result of sidings set up along construction sites.
The state secretary of the Casa Civil (Civil House), Rodrigo Vieira said, “Actions to mitigate problems were implemented.” For disruptions on Visconde de Pirajá these actions include the relocation of signs, adjustments to sidewalks and bike paths and the construction of new bus stops along the waterfront.
“I work in Centro and there used to be able to get the bus just around the corner from my apartment,” said June Silva, a resident of Ipanema, “but now I have to walk three blocks to the nearest stop. It’s not the end of the world, but buses now tend to stop for longer periods waiting for more passengers, which isn’t ideal if you’re in a hurry.”
The additional concern of major increases in robberies and assaults, especially surrounding the construction sites set up for work on Metro Line 4, has caused residents of Ipanema and Leblon to tread more carefully. The number of robberies and assaults in Ipanema and Leblon, often regarded as an affluently safe touristy bubble, are up from 22 in January last year to 75 in the same month this year – an increase of 240.9 percent, according to the Public Security Institute.
Some residents feel that the sidings put up at the sites create a higher risk of danger because of bad lighting and more places to hide along the walkways. A statement released by the Military Police (PM) stated that they are aware of the increase in incidents and remain in permanent contact with the Rio Metro to reorganize policing near construction sites. The Leblon battalion reported to have received an increase of forty officers who are already on the streets, in an effort to intensify patrolling at night.