Within the next month, the Colombian government is expected to sign off on more than $9.5 billion pesos (about $3.24 billion USD) to build a fully elevated metro system serving the country’s capital city.
On Saturday, President Juan Manuel Santos and Bogotá Mayor Enrique Peñalosa met to announce what they say are final plans for the first line of the mass transit project.
“This metro is a reality,” said Santos, who assured that this effort would prove a success unlike those of previous national and city administrations.
“The difference between this and previous metros is that this one will actually be built,” sad Peñalosa.
According to the two leaders, Bogotá’s metro will be completed in three phases.
Final route unveiled
The newly revealed route runs from the Portal de las Américas in the city’s west along the Avenida Primero de Mayo to Avenida Caracas. From there it will continue along Av. Caracas to Calle 72 and the Autopista Norte all the way to Calle 127.
In total, the path covers more than 30 kilometers. The first two phases, which will stretch from Portal de las Américas to Calle 72, are expected to be completed by 2022.
New bus feeder routes will bring passengers from surrounding neighborhoods to metro stations, as will more than 600 additional kilometers of dedicated bicycle paths.
Mayoral office projections estimate that between 600,000 and 1 million passengers will take advantage of the new mass transit option each day. Transmilenio, the city’s bus rapid transit system, transports well over 2 million passengers daily.
“This metro will move twice as many people as an underground metro,” said Peñalosa, who also pointed out that the final project will involve one of the largest ever infrastructure investments in Latin America.
Above ground vs. underground
But an elevated metro has proven controversial, particularly as it represents a departure from previous plans decades in the making. Former Mayor Gustavo Petro has been a particularly vocal critic of an above ground system.
Some argue that noise, visual pollution and other impacts could lower property values in the area surrounding the metro. Peñalosa, on the other hand, has suggested that modern technology renders several of those concerns moot.
Savings from an above ground system could allow a bigger and better metro in the future, according to Peñalosa and President Santos.
Santos justified his support for an elevated system by explaining that underground subways run two to three times over budget on average. Building above ground will also save an estimated $4 billion pesos.
With the completion of the metro and other planned transportation improvements, “we will have more than 80 percent of the population living less than 1 kilometer from mass transit,” explained Peñalosa.
A vast majority of Bogotá’s more than 8 million residents walk, bike or use public transportation for daily commutes, according to public polling. That demand has placed a heavy burden on Transmilenio, which was designed to function much like a metro, but with buses.
Frustrated commuters have long demanded a metro, but plans have stymied several former Bogotá mayors.
“I’ve always had the dream of building this project,” said Santos. “So, Mayor, let’s get to work.”