LISBON’S MARQUÊS de Pombal underpass finally opened last week, two-and-a-half years late and five years after the project was started.
The official inauguration ceremony was carried out by the Mayor of Lisbon, Dr. António Carmona Rodrigues, on the same day that Portugal celebrated the birth of democracy in the country, April 25.
The project, which was initiated under the mayoralty of former Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes, cost the taxpayer 20 million euros, not including the additional four million euros caused by the works suspension for several months.
The Mayor of Lisbon, members of the Câmara’s executive officers and chief guests arrived at the site in a fleet of limousines and proceeded immediately to unveil the official plaque and make the inaugural speech.
The Mayor said the project would not only alleviate the chronic traffic congestion that had plagued the city at peak times around Amoreiras, Avenida Engº Duarte Pacheco, Avenida da Liberdade, Fontes Pereira de Melo and Avenida Augusto Aguiar, but would cut journey times for millions of drivers by 300,000 hours per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 800 tonnes.
However, the day was not without its hitches. A comedian from the RTP 2 comedy programme Sempre em Pé interrupted the ceremony by shouting jokes through a megaphone and was invited to leave by the municipal police.
The Mayor also refused to answer difficult questions from journalists over the Bragaparques corruption scandal in which his former Deputy Mayor, Fontão de Carvalho, has been charged by the police for an involvement.
Immediately following the speech, the Mayor beat a hasty retreat and left the site in his car.
Despite having been invited, the former Mayor of Lisbon and former Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes was not present at the ceremony, neither was the Prime Minister, José Sócrates.
In a press statement, the opposition (PS) said that there are no reasons to celebrate the opening of a public work which is two-and-a-half years late, over budget, that the city doesn’t need and won’t improve the traffic in Lisbon.
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