By Fiona Hurrell, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Road closures and detours, including a new bridge over Jardim de Alah, have caused increased traffic build up in Leblon recently due to work on the new Metro Line 4. The new line, which is expected to be finished in 2015, promises to significantly cut journey time between Zona Sul (South Zone) and Barra da Tijuca in time for the Olympic Games.
The major Leblon detours started in November. Now the route between Rua Avenida Borges de Mediros and Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva has been blocked whilst traffic entering Avenida Borges de Medeiros from Rua Professor Antonio Maria Teixeira can only proceed in one direction since the outer lane is closed.
New attempts have been made to provide drivers with alternative routes, with the new bridge opened last week across the canal and Jardim de Alah park, linking Ipanema and Leblon. This replaces the previous bridge, which joined Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva to Visconde de Pirajá and has been closed since November.
The new bridge has two lanes with the capacity to hold up to 3,000 vehicles per hour according to authorities. Even so the new traffic flow has not seemed to ease the congestion, leaving residents and commuters frustrated.
Expatriate Hero Lomas lives in Leblon and describes, “I drive from Leblon to Botafogo and back twice a day on the school run. The road closures in Leblon have made an already dire traffic situation much worse. The traffic, which would previously have used Ataulfo de Paiva, now has to use another route and those alternative routes get very busy. At midday it can sometimes take twenty minutes just to leave Leblon.”
Similarly, Marco Aurellio operates a car service in Zona Sul and has experienced, first hand, the effects of the recent changes. He explains, “The new road closures have meant diversions and in peak time this can be a problem with extra drivers on the road, it adds time on to the journey.”
New redirections have also affected the Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas since traffic coming from Rua Henrique Dumont in Ipanema is now reversed and heading towards the lake. This has increased the number of drivers on the already busy Avenida Epitacio Pessoa, which connects Leblon and Ipanema to Copacabana, Humaitá and Botafogo.
Fernanda Gomez lives in Lagoa and often commutes, during peak time, from her office in Leblon. She reveals, “It’s always busy coming round the lake at that time of day but lately it has been impossible.”
The construction in Leblon not only worsens traffic, but has also lead to an increase in assaults in the area, as O Globo recently reports. The walls that have been built up to cover the construction sites have made streets in Leblon such as Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva darker and more insecure.
Metro Line 4 is expected to ease traffic congestion between Rio’s South and West zones as well as improve the quality of living for commuters and residents within those areas.
When complete the line will run from General Osório in Ipanema (which is currently closed for the construction) to Jardim Oceanico, stopping at six stations altogether and carrying more than 300,000 passengers per day according to estimates.
Transportation was one of the key factors highlighted in the Mercer report recently, which counts towards a city’s quality of living score. It is hoped that the existence of the line will remove approximately 2,000 vehicles from the roadways during peak hours.