Crash highlights danger

Albufeira’s Inatel area was the scene of two serious accidents last week. The latest crash happened at 5.15am on Rua Gago Coutinho, when the driver of a Peugeot 307 crashed into the side of the road, overturning the vehicle and causing widespread damage to surrounding vehicles. He hit the rear of another car, a black Seat Leon, and two other parked cars in a multiple pile-up. The cause of the accident and the identity of the driver is not yet known, although a local bar owner said she saw a man clamber out of the wreckage and flee the scene.

Only the week before a 20-year-old man was killed when he lost control of his car further down the road near the children’s centre in Albufeira’s Santa Casa de Misericordia (the centre for the homeless).

Although the driver in the first incident had been drinking, the crashes have highlighted what some people think is a major cause for concern in the area – the dilapidated state of Rua Gago Coutinho. The road was due to be pedestrianised last year as part of the city’s POLIS programme. The plan was to create an esplanade stretching from the Fisherman’s Beach to Inatel. But the renovation programme for the city has been delayed for some time due to a funding dispute.

The local bar owner told The Resident that the surface of Rua Gago Coutinho was now clearly dangerous.“Because this road was due to have been closed, the authorities have done nothing to it. There are now no white lines and the tarmac is very uneven. The road is very busy because it leads from the town centre down to the Strip. It is also quite dangerous for pedestrians to cross. We went down to the POLIS office last year to complain. When we asked them when the road works would commence they had no idea.”

Our source had other concerns as well. “The sea is pounding the cliff-face under the road and some experts think the cliff may collapse. There are already signs that the road itself is starting to hollow out.”

But a spokesman from the POLIS office in Albufeira told The Resident that the road was not unsafe. ”In the first incident (the fatal crash) the driver had an extremely high blood alcohol level and had just come from a disco. Drivers must be more careful and respect the speed limit,” he commented.

The government has now announced that the POLIS initiative will go ahead and that the financial crisis has been solved. The POLIS spokesman also confirmed that work on Rua Gago Coutinho would start in mid-September, but that the road would remain open to traffic “for three to four months” after that date. “We want to make that particular area into a pedestrian zone to improve the environment, but emergency vehicles will still be given access,” he explained. According to the POLIS timetable, all the improvement work in Albufeira must be concluded by the end of 2006.