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Buenos Aires infrastructure is being rebuilt, another city is born

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The first improvements to the city of Buenos Aires were very small. Its first name was Santa Maria del Buen Ayre, in 1536, then forty years later it was renamed the City of the Trinity. It was only in 1779 that real changes began with major works affecting its inhabitants. That first change meant the installation of lights to the length and breadth of what was then just something more than a large village.

Its leader, Juan José Vértiz, was known as “the Viceroy of the Lighting Systems”.  Almost 240 years have now passed and the capital of the Argentines continues to transform and rethink its networks.

Today Buenos Aires infrastructure works are in full speed and some areas of the city are almost unrecognizable. It is the greatest transformation in decades and if some works can be the subject of controversy, or even considered pharaonic, nobody who circulates in the city passes them by unnoticed, nor can they ignore their positive impact. Carrying out this work is the government of Buenos Aires and the Ministry of Transport of the Nation, which are adding 974 works simultaneously, with a cost of $43,869,000,000 Pesos.

Some works involve huge changes and others are more subtle. In full view of all and in three different neighborhoods, for example, the elevation of the railway tracks Mitre, San Martín and Belgrano Sur, stand out, with the consequent elimination of the ground level rail crossings; Or, the mega work that will change the “Bajo Porteño” joining the Panamericana motorway with the southern highway of Buenos Aires to La Plata.

Something similar happened with the inauguration of the Avenida 9 de Julio, on October 13, 1937.  Perhaps it was the most important infrastructure decision in the modern history of the city. It was a great way of improving the connection between the north and the south of the city.  For those who complain about the disorder caused by the current works in progress, that work involved the demolition of 24 blocks and the creation of a gigantic boulevard that crossed the barely-constructed obelisk.  The officials of the Government of Buenos Aires do not disguise their ambitions: they say that when all these works are completed, it will be a completely different city.

According to the head of government of Buenos Aires, Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, the “Paseo de Bajo”  will be ready by April 2019 and cost around $6.405 billion pesos. Although the project was devised fifty years ago, the work only began in May 2017. “From an engineering point of view it is a very sophisticated construction, as well, the road infrastructure is going to be the most striking construction of the past half-century,” says Larreta. The new corridor will be extended for 7.1 kilometers, from Brazil Street to the exit toll of the Illia highway, and have twelve lanes: four exclusive for trucks and long distance buses and the remaining eight for light vehicles.

In the middle, there will be 60,000 square meters of green spaces, which will be complemented with a new park on the Avenues Leandro N. Alem and Paseo Colón. The rail lines will be eliminated, the sidewalks will be expanded and new urban furniture will be installed. Also to disappear will be the parking lots of cars and buses on the surface to a new underground bus park on two levels. The first one will be suitable for 46 buses (of the Lines 74, 105, 146 and 159), whilst the second will accommodate 309 official vehicles.

So the new station Belgrano C, in Chinatown
The new station Belgrano C, in Chinatown

Lazzari estimates that this work resembles ancient pre-highway projects. “The project has been thought through with the idea to reduce negative impacts. The underground trench system, which was not a technically easy solution for architects and engineers, from an urban point of view, generates a much smaller impact compared to the possibility of installing an elevated highway, “argues the historian. When the project is complete, trucks coming and going via the city will no longer cause a traffic problem.

Another of the major transformations responds to the long-term strategy of eliminating the railway level crossings,  which will be known as “Buenos Aires without Barriers”. The objective is by 2020 there will only be 20 railroad crossings left at street level. To achieve that, they are constructing three new overhead viaducts, the Mitre, the San Martín and the south-east Belgrano. This will remove 27 level crossings.

In numbers, the Mitre viaduct will cost 256 million pesos, and raise the railroad tracks for a stretch of 3.9 kilometers, between Palermo and Núñez, eliminating eight barrier crossings with the streets Olleros, La Pampa, Sucre, Juramento, Mendoza, Olazabal, Blanco Encalada and Monroe, and open four crossings that are currently closed: Echeverría, Roosevelt, Virrey del Pino and José Hernández streets. In addition, the stations Lisandro de la Torre and Belgrano C will be renovated, which will be located in a new location. Built to the same level as the elevated lines.

Currently, a Chinese machine using Italian technology is working in the area of Barrancas de Belgrano joining steel bar concrete structures, called voussoirs. They measure 12 meters long and weigh 40 tonnes each.

When finished, the viaduct will have 1017 voussoirs, equivalent to more than 40,000 tons of concrete and 7800 tonnes of steel. In order not to move them far, a factory was built on the Av. Belisario Roldán, behind the velodrome, which can produce eight voussoirs per day.

Ave. Córdoba and Av. Juan B. Justo: The San Martín train will run high
Ave. Córdoba and Av. Juan B. Justo: The train San Martín will run above ground. Source: La Nacion-credit: Jorge Vidal

The San Martín Viaduct will elevate the tracks along five kilometers, between Palermo and La Paternal, eliminating eleven barriers: They cross over the Cordoba and Corrientes Avenues, and the streets Jorge Newbery, Garmendia, Honduras, Gorriti, Cabrera, Niceto Vega, Loyola, Ramírez de Velasco and Girardot; In turn, nine additional safe crosses, seven for cars and pedestrians, in Castillo, Aguirre, Vera, Villarroel, Iturri, Caldas and Montenegro, and two other exclusive for pedestrians, at the corner of Concepción Arenal and Leiva.

The work includes the renovation and elevation of the stations Paternal and Chacarita and, as in all the three, will generate new green spaces, new service areas, and recreation areas. It is expected that it will open in August 2019, with a cost of 398 million pesos.

Although the Belgrano Sur Viaduct was also going to be presented at that time, it may be delayed because the bidding for the works between Sáenz and Constitución has been suspended. The cancellation in the progress does not affect the works that are in execution, as to the elevation of the Sáenz station and the crossing of the Avenue, but affects the second stretch between the streets Diogenes Tabored and The Plaza Constitución station.

The finished 5.6 kilometers of the elevated line will eliminate eight barriers (Av. Sáenz, Einstein, Cachi, Tabora, Amancio Alcorta, Pepiri, Monteagudo and Zavaleta), it will open seven Streets (Corrales, Taba, Ramírez, Fournier, Ochoa, Atuel, Iguazú) and it will unite new Pompeii with Constitution Station. The budget is 2.4 billion pesos.

The area called the Containera, in the now Barrio 31, already represents a before and after for the retirement settlement
The area called the Containera, in the now Barrio 31, already represents a before and after for the settlement of Retiro. Source: La Nacion-credit: Jorge Vidal

The three viaducts are part of the Regional Express Network (RER), which in turn is an action of the Integral Plan of the works for the Metropolitan network of trains, executed by the Ministry of Transport of the Nation, which counted on a budget of 14 billion US dollars. This includes the renovation of tracks, the signaling system, automatic braking on all lines, 150 stations, improvements in workshops and installation of video cameras. In addition, the tunneling of the Sarmiento line, the three viaducts and the 120 crossings underpasses, the network of tunnels and underground stations that will connect the metropolitan network will also be completed.

The milestone is that for the first time in history the three railway lines with the largest number of passengers in the metropolitan area will be connected to each other in underground stations, one of them under the Obelisk, without having to make transfers.

It is expected that these works will end in 2023 and that the network connects the lines that come from the south (the rock and the South Belgrano), from the north (the San Martín, the Mitre in its three branches and Belgrano Norte), and the West (the Sarmiento). According to Guillermo Dietrich, Minister of Transport of the Nation, “the work will forever change the way we move in the metropolitan area. In addition to quality public transport, the working frontier will be extended to allow millions of people to reach places that previously could not, for lack of transport means. ” The route will be above the city, or below, but no longer on the surface.

Av. del Libertador, next to the Mitre Viaduct (will be ready in 2019)
Av. del Libertador, next to the Mitre Viaduct (will be ready in 2019) Source: La Nacion-credit: Jorge Vidal

In detail, before we get to Constitution Station the train will begin to descend and stop at a new underground station to continue their journey to the Retiro zone, then end up at the second underground station, under the Obelisk.

Lazzari mentions the years of the 1930’s, to which he defines as being extraordinarily productive, to the point that the Obelisk, inaugurated in 1936, was quickly adopted as the most identifiable international symbol of Buenos Aires. “That year, the Capital took a leap to modernity and went on to also have a very large cultural development, with the creation of historical and art museums such as the new National Museum of Fine Arts and San Martin’s Square, which until then was just land, ” he explains. Meanwhile, in the vicinity of all this progress, the most vulnerable neighborhoods were more and more relegated. This time it will be different.

Currently several Villa’s (slums) around the outskirts of the city of Buenos Aries are being urbanized and given official barrio or neighbourhood names and will have proper infrastructure built, ie sewers, clean drinking water, storm drains, electricity, and asphalt on all the streets, Rodríguez Larreta advised.

In addition, we have moved the Ministry of Education; It’s going to generate a thousand-odd people to interact with the neighborhood. ” For that, the project includes the educational Polo Educativo Maria Elena Walsh, where the ministry will be located, an entry-level school, a Primary school, and an adult education center, plus 1,200 new homes.

This way the new station Belgrano C; Motorists no longer suffer from the circular by oath, in Chinatown
The new station Belgrano C; Chinatown

Something similar to this also happened with the Olympic Quarter which was inaugurated as a residence for athletes of the Youth Olympic Games, held last October.  It is planned that those who acquired these homes can move in the first few months of 2019.

The property occupies 3.5 hectares of Villa Soldati, and has 31 buildings six-and seven-stored. In total, there will be 1,050 houses of 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms.

The city’s media secretary, Marcelo Nachón, said that “the houses are destined 10 percent for teachers, another 10 percent for police, 30 percent for neighborhood locals and the rest will be sold by scoring, a system of transparent credits and accessible for up to 30 years payment plans. ”

On the other hand, the work that began with the demolition of the White Elephant, a building that covered the hidden city, in Villa 15, is valued at 647 million pesos, which will be distributed with the setting in value of the environment (55 million), the construction of the new headquarters of the Ministry of Human Development and Habitat (475 million) and new Green spaces (117 million) between the streets of La Rosa, Hubac, Cañada de Gómez and Timoteo Gordillo.

The container, in the now Barrio 31
The now Barrio 31 Source: La Nacion-credit: Jorge Vidal

The path of Sirga, on the edge of the stream “so called by the donkeys who dragged the boats with rope along the rivers, “clarifies Lazzari,” is located between the Avenues Sáenz and Vieytes and will travel 5.2 linear kilometers, equivalent to almost 180,000 square meters of the total surface.

They are currently executing the works in the third tender, from the Bosch Bridge To Río Limay Street, where Villa 26 can be found. The cost is around 135 million pesos with the Ministry of Environment and Public space being responsible for the work of cleaning the river.

They claim to date to have removed more than 1,700 tonnes of waste. The work began in the year 2010. Some 1,837 families lived there and to date, some 700 have already been relocated.

The Villa Rodrigo Bueno, on the Costanera Sur and the Villa Fraga, in Chacarita also have works underway. When completed, this neighborhood will have 672 new houses.

Finally, the plan to revalue the neighborhoods will have three other colossal challenges: moving the prison of Devoto a Marcos Paz. Transforming the Home Office into the Ministry of Finance and Income and the General Archive of the Nation and transfer to the province the Mercado de Hacienda de Mataderos.

Another project that may seem less important is the Ministry of Environment and Space which has been less public; This was at some point similar to what the Viceroy Vértiz did back in the 1700’s.

That is to transform Buenos Aires into the first city of Latin America having all its public lighting one hundred percent LED. This will be completed by 2019 and will save more than 50% of the current consumption, or a savings equivalent to the energy needs of 25,300 households.

The Megaobra of the bass, one of the 974 running
The Megaobra of the bass, one of the 974 in execution Source: La Nacion-credit: Jorge Vidal

At the other end of the scale, beneath the earth, something that changes the quality of life of many Porteños is the intubation of the Arroyo Vega, as was done with the Maldonado river earlier.

According to the Authorities, it will be ready on August 27, 2019. In  full view of an electoral campaign where Rodríguez Larreta will seek his re-election;  the cost 2181 million pesos.

The tunnel 5.3 meters in diameter will take water overflow of the Vega and cross the depths of Buenos Aires. First below Aeroparque, then along La Pampa Street to go under the lines D and B of the subway and reach the Victorica Street, where it will connect with a second stretch of a lesser diameter pipe, two and a half kilometers. This project will solve the problem of the frequent floods that affect Belgrano and Núñez forever.

Other works that will change the face of the city are the constructions of pedestrian areas in the CBD. In the chaotic Micro Center already 80 percent of the streets have been pedestrian prioritised with a vehicle restriction that reduces the inflow of cars by 77 percent.

In the environment court, the Plaza Lavalle has won 5,000 square meters of green spaces which will be transformed into a new pedestrian area, with a widening sidewalk on Pueyrredón Avenue. The Retiro district also changed its physiognomy between the streets Carlos Pellegrini, Av. Del Libertador, Maipú and Av. Santa Fe, semi-pedestrianised the streets of Suipacha, Arroyo, Basavilbaso and Pasaje Sargento Cabral, and widened Juncal between Esmeralda and Maipú. The emblematic Avenue Corrientes will also have a pedestrian section, with restricted areas, from Callao to Florida, where the sidewalks are expanding 2.60 meters from both sides and the current six car lanes will be reduced to four. These works will have a cost of 304 million pesos and will be inaugurated in 2019.

The city is full of work projects and the transit systems that runs through it. However once all these projects are realized, Buenos Aires, only a few years from its 500 yr centenary of its first foundation, will be a different city. It is the promise that began with Vértiz, the Viceroy of the Lamps and that today has been continued by Rodríguez Larreta.

Source:La Nacion

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