By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With one month to go before the start of the 2016 Olympic Games, on Monday, July 4th, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes unveiled another of the city’s major infrastructure projects, the new Transolímpica BRT expressway. The 26-km express corridor will be a vital artery during the 2016 Games connecting the spectacle’s two largest competition venues, Olympic Park, in Barra da Tijuca, and the Deodoro Sports Complex.
To prepare for the 500,000 international travelers expected to visit Rio during the Games, numerous roadway traffic and transportation infrastructure works were initiated to enhance mobility and travel in the notoriously congested city.
Within Centro, the biggest changes in transportation began with the destruction of the Perimetral highway in November 2013. This paved the way, literally, for new tunnels such as the Rio 450 and Marcello Alencar tunnels, along with the introduction of the new light rail transport system, the VLT.
Zona Sul (South Zone) is expected to receive a transportation boost when the much-delayed Metro Line 4 opens in August. The new Metro Line 4 will connect Ipanema with Jardim Oceanico in Barra da Tijuca.
Arguably the biggest transportation impact will be in Zona Oeste (West Zone) where the new Transolímpica will join two other expressways, also integrated into the BRT (Rapid Transit Bus) system, already in place. The Transoeste BRT express corridor, connecting the Alvorada terminal in Barra da Tijuca with Recreio, has already been up and running since June 2012. The Transcarioca corridor, which links Rio’s international airport and Barra da Tijuca, opened in 2014.
Construction of the Transolímpico began in July 2012 and once it opens, the 28-km route between Barra da Tijuca and Deodoro is expected to transport 70,000 passengers per day across eleven regions of Zona Oeste and reduce travel time across the region by sixty percent.
Together with the Transoeste and the Transcarioca, city officials expect the three BRT express corridors to combine to transport more than a half a million passengers per day, directly benefitting residents of Baixada Fluminense and regions close to Avenida Brazil.
“This path did not exist before,” said an excited Mayor Paes at the unveiling. “This is incredibly important and an amazing legacy that brings a transformative change in this part of town.” The mayor added, “The movement here is very fast. It is a toll road, like the Linha Amarela, but with BRT.”
The Transolímpica has two car lanes in both directions and an exclusive path for the BRT (Rapid Transit Bus). Mayor Paes will officially inaugurate the expressway this weekend, but it will not be open for public use until after the Games. During the Olympic period, the two car lanes will be reserved exclusively for Olympic family and accredited Rio 2016 vehicles. To travel on the Transolímpica BRT, passengers will have to use the recently released unlimited travel card designed for the Games, the Rio 2016 RioCard.
“We will have the inauguration next Saturday, and until August 21st, when the Olympics end, it will serve only accredited vehicles and Olympic family members, while the BRT, will be only for Olympic spectators with the Olympic RioCard,” explained Mayor Paes. “For the general population we will open the road completely on August 22nd and during the Paralympic Games, it will already be in full operation.”
The Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games are scheduled to begin on August 5th going until August 21st, followed by the Paralympics, beginning September 7th until the 18th.