By Claire Rivé, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Delays and design changes on the Transcarioca Highway connecting Galeão International Airport to Barra da Tijuca have led to the project running 46 percent over budget. The initial cost of the Transcarioca was estimated at R$1.3 billion, but after numerous delays, expenditure now stands at R$1.9 billion according to officials.
The inflated figure does not include an additional R$200 million spent on the expropriation of property required around the work site during construction between 2010 and 2013.
One of the main factors contributing to the increased cost of the Transcarioca project was the redesign of the cable-stayed bridge connecting the airport to the highway. The selection of the project’s design was based on the conceptual functionality of the proposals and the winning bid included a 120 meter mast in the center of the bridge.
During the developmental phase it was found that the mast would interfere with air-traffic, which led to the redesign of this section of the project – to two sixty meter structures – and a relocation of funds.
Teams in some sections are working 24 hours a day to deliver the project on time, which also contributes to increased costs. Still, Mayor Eduardo Paes remained optimistic, as he argued that the unexpected is to be expected in a project of this size. According to Paes, the Transcarioca is the best value for money investment of all the transportation projects underway in all of Brazil’s World Cup host states.
According to the original schedule, the work on the section between Barra and Penha should have been completed by February 28th this year. This has been adjusted to a three-phase opening between the months of March and May 2014. The objective of a three-phase opening is apparently to allow a gradual absorption of traffic as the system is expected to serve 320,000 users a day.
The general manager of the BRT Operational Consortium, Alexandre Castro said, “We need some time to do what we call ‘take charge’ tests. This includes adjusting cameras, electronic ticketing and check automatic opening doors, among other equipment. In addition to the differences in vehicle technology, there are other details. When stopping at stations, the doors of the bus must be aligned with the entries of platforms.”
More than twenty new buses were commissioned for the March tests and the fleet arrived on time. According to the original schedule, six stations between Tanque and Madureira are to come into operation this month and in May the next round of testing between Madureira and the International Airport will begin.
Delays haven’t been limited to labor and design issues as operators have been slow to deliver on their promises. The BRT Operating Consortium, managed by Rio’s bus companies, has yet to complete a new control center for video cameras and the GPS monitoring of vehicles.
In a statement, the consortium said that the completion of the center was not a requirement for early operation because the operational tests could be carried out from the control panel that currently serves the Transoeste highway. The Transoeste was inaugurated in June 2012 and forms part of Rio´s plan to increase the use of high capacity transport from eighteen percent to over sixty percent by 2016 with a four-lane BRT system.