By Daisy O’Connell, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Engineers in Rio have condemned the structure of the city’s “Elevado do Joá” which is part of the highway between Barra da Tijuca and Zona Sul (South Zone). Experts have suggested that forty years of corrosion caused by rainwater have compromised the safety of the road and some emergency work has already been started.
Engineers have concluded there is a very probable risk of collapse, but they are unable to pinpoint exactly when they expect this to happen. A team of engineers who began studying the structural conditions of the highway four years ago concluded there was significant damage to the road; however, the municipal government which commissioned the study suggested that the opinion of more experts was needed before condemning the structure.
According to the Municipal Secretary of Public Works, Alexandre Pinto, the opinion of the Coppe (Coordenação dos Programas de Pós-Graduação em Engenharia), the engineers carrying out the survey, cannot be considered conclusive as previous engineers who have surveyed the highway deemed the structure safe, provided the corroded concrete pillars of the road were replaced.
Bruno Contarini a consultant engineer who reviewed the bridge was quoted as saying “we can dismiss any risk as long as the corroded areas of the road are pulled down and replaced”.
Coppe have suggested that replacing the concrete pillars is not enough and have proposed that almost every stretch of the highway needs rebuilding in order to prevent collapse. The also called for more modern techniques of engineering, in order to facilitate the maintenance of the road.
Coppe are hopeful that building work on the highway can start as soon as possible before the road becomes closed to commuters due to the risk of complete collapse.
In the mean time measures are being introduced to minimize the risk of accidents and to prevent total collapse of the structure. These measures include prohibiting the movement of trucks on the highway and reducing the speed limit for buses and cars from eighty kilometers per hour to sixty kilometers per hour.
Brazilian and U.S. duel citizen, David Huffard, who is on the Board of The American Society in Rio and lives in São Conrado shared: “The current emergency work being done on the Elevado do Joá is very important structural work as the whole Elevado was deemed last year to be at risk of crumbling.”
One reason why the municipal government may be hesitating to begin major work on the highway is the proposed cost. Instead of the original R$7 million (US$3.5 million) announced in December 2012, it is now thought the cost of the rebuilding will be nearer to R$70 million (US$35.4 million). The revised figures were announced by Rio’s mayor Eduardo Paes, shortly after approval was gained by the city to carry out the structural repairs.
Mr. Huffard tells: “I have seen a project that promotes adding another lane both on top and on the bottom tiers, as well as a bicycle lane. If these additions become reality they will help easy the intense traffic during rush hours.”
Many experts are arguing that extensive repairs to the highway are not necessary and that costs for a total repair are becoming increasingly high but others have suggested that the cost will be far greater if the highway was to eventually collapse.