By Nelson Belen, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One month removed from the tragic collapse of a section of the city’s coastal Tim Maia bike path, which killed two and injured many others, Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes announced on Friday, May 20th, that he was optimistic that the cycle path could be reopened this year.
“It’s possible to keep the same structure, only safer,” the Mayor said. “There may be a structural solution much simpler than previously thought, following the same path. There is a volume of information for the engineers who are already planning the project.”
The Mayor emphasized that safety, not speed, is the ultimate priority, “Perhaps it’s nothing more than my twisted optimism, but depending on the term and the solution, this could be completed by the Olympics, but that’s not what will guide our actions, what will is the total security that errors are not repeated.”
The deadly incident occurred on Thursday, April 21st, only a few months after the path was opened and only four months before the 2016 Olympic Games, when a section of the bike path collapsed after being struck by strong waves beneath it.
Days after the tragedy, the city commissioned an independent study of the cycle path from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) and the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Hidroviárias (INPH). The study is still ongoing, but based on initial reports, the structure was inadequately built to withstand the force of heavy waves.
According to the initial findings, the 25-meter wave that struck the path had a force of three tons per square meter. For the path to have withstood that force, its concrete density would have had to have weighed 6.6 tons per square meter. However, the bike path’s concrete density was far short of that number, weighing only 0.5 tons per square meter.
Mayor Paes said that the results of the study will be used to compensate the victims and punish those responsible. “All these elements produced by the study will be used to help the police identify those responsible for the accident,” said the Mayor. “In confirming the responsibility of the company, we will charge the compensation to the company.”
The city, according to the Mayor, is still negotiating with the families of the two victims of the collapse, Eduardo Marinho, an engineer, and Ronaldo Severino, a waiter, to hopefully provide just compensation and avoid litigation involving the city.
The mayor’s announcement also came amid protests occurring throughout the week near the site of the tragedy. Beto Garcia, a cyclist and one of the protest organizers said, “Two lives were lost, absurd money was spent, and no one has been held responsible.”
Having been built at a cost of R$45 million (US$12.6 million), the bike path was inaugurated on January 17th, seven months ahead of the 2016 Olympics. It was designed to run between the upscale neighborhoods of Leblon and São Conrado and continue on to Barra da Tijuca, the location of Olympic Park.
The bike path’s reconstruction is being handled by the same Contemat/Concrejato consortium that built it.