LIMA, Peru – In Peru’s capital, vehicular traffic is chaotic.
The government’s soft regulations, coupled with an influx of cars on the street that’s been fueled by an increase in imported vehicles, has brought the city to a grinding halt.
But President Alan García believes he has found a way to alleviate the congestion. Mercedes Aráoz, the country’s minister of economy and finance, teamed with Enrique García, the executive president of the Andean Development Corporation, to sign a US$300 million loan to fund the first stage of building a mass transit train system to rapidly shuttle passengers throughout the city.
“The electrical train is a need that cannot be postponed for Lima because it represents a solution for public transportation problems in the city, offering passengers a faster, more secure, economical and clean service,” Enrique García wrote in a statement.
The initial track will stretch from Villa El Salvador, which is in the capital’s southern area, to Avenida Grau, a highway that leads to the heart of Lima.
The project will be carried out by a consortium formed by Brazilian transnational Odebrecht and Peru’s Graña y Montero. The project will cost US$550 million and it will fund the construction of 11.7 kilometers (7.2 miles) of railway, the refurbishing of 32 existing cars and the construction of nine stations.
The transit system, which besides being economical and safe, also will lower the city’s pollution, as a recent study determined the pollution rate of Lima, which has a population of 7.6 million, is on the same level as more industrialized cities such as Santiago (population 6.3 million) and Mexico City (population 8.7 million). It also would help the city comply with the ministry of transport and communication’s (MTC) law that mandates the reduction of vehicular lead contents by 5,000 to 50 parts per million by the end of January 2011.
The San Borja district, which would have three train stations, has been the first to oppose the project. Alberto Tejada, the district’s mayor, formally requested the MTC to eliminate one of the stops along the residential Avenida San Borja Sur. Tejada’s request was backed by 75% of local residents who claimed the area does not need a train station.
Though the MTC accepted the request, it does not mean it will be granted, according to Enrique Cornejo, the country’s minister of transport.
“This does not mean that this stop is not going to happen,” he said. “For the time being, the request has been upheld as there is no other public transport to act as a connection in the zone for those who get off at that stop.”
Cornejo added: “Still, traffic will increase on this avenue in coming years and it will be necessary then to have this stop working. Because of that, the project plan has not changed.”
But Tejada isn’t the only one who opposes the transit system, which had its funding announced at the annual meeting of the governors of the Inter-American Development Bank, held in Cancún, Mexico.
“Twenty years ago it was natural to think of the electric train because of the lack of mass transit. But today, with the next inauguration of the Metropolitano bus service, the train is going to lose income,” said Luis Quispe Candia, director of the Luz Ámbar, a non-governmental organization. “That is why in the end, no company submitted a bid and the government has had to assume a large part of the cost for the project to be viable.”
He added: “When it begins to run, this first stage is going to be truncated. It will be necessary to finish the second stage that serves the northern district of San Juan de Lurigancho (the most populated part of the capital with 800,000 residents) for the train to be justified. The investment is risky because it will end up competing with the Metropolitano.”