By Kate Rintoul, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL — An ambitious new project to significantly increase the capacity along the “Elevado do Joá” which is part of the highway between Barra da Tijuca and Zona Sul (South Zone) started on June 20th and is set to continue for 21 months. The construction will add new lanes, two new tunnels and an ocean view bike path along the route.
The highway has long been a bottle neck for the large areas of Barra da Tijuca and Zona Oest (West Zone), and after forty years the existing structure had started to show corrosion leading to some emergency repair measures taken last year.
Now with an investment of R$458 million in funds from the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), this will add to the infrastructure overhaul that the city of Rio de Janeiro is receiving ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games, including a new Metro line to Barra.
The most impressive and challenging part of the extension will be the parallel tunnels cutting through the Deus Irmaos (Two Brothers) mountains and other terrain. To excavate, daily detonations will take place, though those involved in the project have assured this can be undertaken without having to close the existing highway. “The entire work will be done inside the slopes. So there is no need to close the high, which is good for the drivers and the city”, explained Fabio Rigueira, director of works of Geo-Rio, the firm responsible for the extension.
The Elevado do Joá enjoys a stunning ocean view and also connects São Conrado on the way to Barra da Tijuca, which has developed rapidly over the last ten years. With as many as 100,000 new families and businesses arriving in the area, the existing highway linking Rio’s economic centers to this residential area had been pushed to breaking point.
The works, which began during the World Cup, are expected to be completed just three months before huge numbers of tourists and athletes arrive for the Olympics (of which Barra da Tijuca zone is the main event hub) get underway in August 2016.
Swedish native Johan Jonsson, who lives in Barra and founded Agente Imóvel, is cautious as to whether the completion of this new project will have any real impact on property prices in the area above what the Line 4 Metro (subway) system has. “São Conrado and Jardim Oceanico in Barra da Tijuca, which will have direct access to [Line 4], have seen pretty steep price hikes ever since the project was officially announced.”
“Although one can expect that most of the appreciation now is discounted, I personally think that Barra da Tijuca will continue to gain relative Zona Sul. One interesting note about São Conrado is the current new construction by João Fortes, which is facing Rocinha. [Go] back five years and those properties would have been impossible to sell due to risk of stray bullets and such. To the surprise of many, the apartments are all sold out.”
The promise of the improved motorway is being welcomed by those considering on coming to Rio for the Olympics. English holiday maker Adele Vines stayed with her partner’s relatives in Barra da Tijuca throughout the World Cup and the couple, both big sports fans are keen to return for the Olympics after the new infrastructure is in place.
“While I loved the World Cup, traveling everyday from Barra to the Zona Sul and Maracanã [Stadium] was an absolute nightmare. Even on days when we left with time to spare, we ended up getting stuck for hours in long traffic jams and it really had an impact on our experience. I spent the whole time questioning whether we should have stayed in Barra.”