Light at the end of the tunnel

news: Light at the end of the tunnel

MOTORISTS already experiencing lengthy delays at rush hour on the approach to the Marquês de Pombal roundabout can expect more diversions this month. From April 15, as work on laying paving stones and kerbs picks up pace, the traffic will be diverted south of Avenida Joaquim António Aguiar, from the crossroads at Rua Conselheiro Fernando de Sousa up to the crossroads at Rua Castilho on a stretch of road measuring 550 metres.

Until September, the traffic between Amoreiras and the Marquês roundabout will be able to flow on the surface again. But light could soon be at the end of the tunnel as work on the entire project is anticipated to be completed by the beginning of next year.

The current timetable for the various phases of the work between now and 2006 was discussed recently at a meeting with the Tunnel Co-ordination Office, the Lisbon Câmara President, Pedro Santana Lopes, Câmara Vice President, António Carmona Rodrigues, and other councillors and executive officers.

Lisbon’s Marquês de Pombal tunnel has proved a long-running fiasco since work began on the project at the start of 2004. In April last year, a Lisbon judge ordered excavation work on the tunnel to stop because an environmental impact study hadn’t been carried out. Only 17 per cent of the tunnel had been completed, when an official complaint was filed by Lisbon lawyer, José Sá Fernandes.

An initial report on the tunnel, compiled by a private consultancy, IPA, boasted that the tunnel would “contribute to a better flow of traffic in the area”. “It is envisaged the tunnel will improve air quality and reduce the level of noise pollution,” the report went on.

But the project’s main objective is to solve the chronic traffic jams in the area, particularly in Avenida Eng. Duarte Pacheco.

The tunnel was also the flagship election campaign promise of recently reinstated Câmara President, Santana Lopes’s. It ended up being an issue that blew up in his face as the former Prime Minister was made a laughing stock by the national press. C.G.