By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The construction work that has dominated the Zona Sul (South Zone) neighborhood of Leblon since 2012 has cleared on Saturday morning (July 16th), opening the main roadway Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva to run unobstructed through to Ipanema. The construction work that was necessary for the extension of the Metro Linha 4 (Subway Line 4) has also finished in Leblon’s main park, Praça Antero de Quental.
The opening was celebrated with a surprise appearance by governor Luiz Fernando Pezão, who has been on sick leave from office, along with the Secretary of State for Transport, Rodrigo Vieira, and the president of RioTrilhos, Tatiana Carius.
With the delivery of Quental Antero Station Line 4, held on Friday (July 15th), the square gained a completely refurbished landscape design, new trees, refurbished seats and improved lighting.
Secretary Rodrigo Vieira said, “Over the past few years, we emphasized that the impact was temporary and the benefits permanent. And we are now seeing the benefits. The Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva is reopened, traffic is circulating and the population is embracing again this space, which has new specimens of trees and landscaping highlighted by modern lighting.”
In addition to the completion of works above-ground, Vieira also spoke about the imminent opening of the Metro Line 4 station, “In addition, integrated into the ambience of the square, we have two efficient access to the metro station which will serve 35,000 people every day.”
Charles Morphett, an Australian expatriate living in Leblon and working for luxury real estate firm, Rio Exclusive, explained, “After years of construction Leblon looks great now. Its chic vibe will return now better than ever.” Adding when the Metro Line 4 opens, “Day-to-day life will improve rapidly in and around Leblon with less traffic, quieter streets and of course once [the subway station] opens, connected to neighboring areas.”
Leblon resident Sandra Aparecida Oliveira Neves, age 64, told government news sources, “I bought an apartment in the Ataulfo de Paiva knowing that the subway would come back here. Having such transport, mass, at the door, especially going to Barra, it’s everything! I have no car by choice, so, my focus is on the subway. And with the opening so close, I can easily get home at any time of day.”
The president of the Residents Associations (AMALeblon) and Leblon Commerce, Evelyn Rosenzweig explains the release of the traffic and the reopening of the square have a huge significance for store owners and businesses.
“Expectations are high because the [foot traffic] public will increase. Moreover, workers and inhabitants will have more mobility, which reduces stress and is a gain in quality of life,” Rosenzweig told government sources.
In addition, the Avenida Ataulfo de Paiva roadwork is cleared through Jardim de Alah leading to Rua Visconde de Pirajá in Ipanema. The return of the main throughway between these two neighborhoods marks the end of countless detours that have confounded traffic congestion in the areas, marking a return to normality residents have almost forgotten about.
Authorities remain optimistic that the new Line 4 will be operational on August 1st, just four days before the Rio 2016 Olympic Games start, but only available to event ticket holders, athletes, and official press pass holders. There is no set date for when the line, initially planned at R$5 billion but may now reach a total R$9.7 billion, will be fully open to the public.
Authorities say the Metro Line 4 will unite Rio, integrate regions and bring quality of life to thousands of people. The Rio de Janeiro state government’s project is designed to transport more than 300,000 people a day, removing about 2,000 vehicles from the streets during peak rush hour.