By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In December Rio signaled the need for an additional R$1 billion to complete the Line 4 Metro extension connecting Zona Sul (South Zone) to Barra da Tijuca in time for the Olympics in August. Now, yesterday (February 19th), Brazilian news outlet O Globo acquired an internal communication from Mayor Eduardo Paes suggesting an alternative to the promised metro subway being finished.
Part of the original plan Rio de Janeiro proposed when bidding for the privilege to host the 2016 Olympics, was to spread events across four zones in the city: the Barra Zone, Copacabana Zone, Maracanã Zone, and Deodoro Zone. The Barra Zone, in Barra da Tijuca, will be the athletes’ home and the heart of the games with the Olympic Village there as well.
As Barra da Tijuca is a thirty minute drive from the rest of the city in the best traffic conditions, and can be a two hour trip in rush-hour, the metro extension was key infrastructure improvement promised. It is also perhaps the largest Olympic legacy for the city, intended to improve the commute for more than 300,000 people a day in Rio de Janeiro.
Now, O Globo reported that in an email sent on Friday morning to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the mayor said there is a “high risk” of the Metro line 4 not being ready for the Olympics. In the message treated as a “strictly confidential,” Paes asks the IOC to consider the use of a contingency plan developed by the municipality, the establishment of a provisional system of BRT (Rapid Bus Transport).
The email from the mayor wrote, “In recent weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what is really happening in the construction of Line 4 subway. Deadlines and schedules … I heard from some people that the project is a high level of risk. All I can say is that the information is not clear (…). The Municipal Secretary (Transport) Rafael Picciani already prepared an alternative, and I think we need to start studying it now and submit it to the assessment of the International Olympic Committee.”
O Globo reports that the email was sent to Phillip Bovy, IOC chief consultant for transport, among others. In the message, Paes notes that Bovy will be in Rio on Monday and suggests an emergency meeting to understand what is happening. He adds: “We continue to work hard. I can assure you once again that all deliveries under municipal responsibility will be made.”
The Rio government’s contingency plan is a temporary expansion of the BRT to Zona Sul, with the implementation of exclusive lanes for buses. Instead taking a bus from the new Jardim Oceânico Metro station in Barra da Tijuca for the last leg of the journey to the Olympic Park, passengers would connect to the bus lanes from Praça Nossa Senhora da Paz in Ipanema, or the Jardim de Alah (on the border with Leblon).
Adaptations to the roadways are expected to cost R$7.4 million, including expenses for the construction of a 360 meter long platform to board a bus at Praça Nossa Senhora da Paz. A major challenge to this new plan will be for the municipality to procure a fleet of 115 articulated buses to connect the two points.
O Globo reported that Mayor Eduardo Paes and the governor, Luiz Fernando Pezão, chose not to give interviews on the subject. Through its press office, Paes said he would not discuss internal circulation of documents and that the work of the Metro Line 4 ‘follows on schedule, and is still scheduled for delivery in July’.