Rua Direita, one of Portimão’s principal thoroughfares, closed for the third time recently. If the proposed three-month repair period is adhered to, the traffic chaos experienced at the height of summer last year should, in theory at least, be avoided. The câmara had initially closed the road after deciding to turn it into a pedestrian zone, only to be persuaded by the ensuing bottlenecks that they should re-tar the major exit route out of the city. At the time, officials explained the city-centre upheaval by citing the need to renew old water pipes and the drainage system, as well as upgrade the street lights. This year, motorists will be inconvenienced until at least June and the estimated 10,000 cars that pass through Rua Direita every day will have to use alternative routes through Portimão.
The glossy brochure published by the câmara recommends continuing straight ahead after crossing the old bridge and turning left just before the railway station, thus circumnavigating the city centre via the municipal graveyard.
According to Câmara President, Manuel da Luz, the ongoing work, which has so far cost 817,000 euros, is part of the Urbcom Project to upgrade the city centre. Its objective is to revamp the commercial zone, create pavements and re-organise the flow of traffic. In the case of the Rua Direita, a central reservation, as well as ‘natural barriers’ made up of plants, are to be created to enhance the shopping ambience. All very laudable, but an organisational shambles in view of the fact that a third attempt has now become necessary to achieve these objectives.
“Portimão will win,” the official brochure promises and, “the sacrifices having to be made will prove worthwhile in the end”. With a further 1.8m euros to be spent on similar work, however, an end is hardly in sight. “People that do!” is the leading slogan decorating the leaflet. More to the point for the general population is the huge picture of a set of traffic lights on the cover – permanently stuck on red. SB