Tunnel study positive

THE LONG awaited study on the environmental impact of Lisbon’s Marquês de Pombal tunnel has been released. Although it recommends around 40 measures to be taken before work on the controversial tunnel can resume, on the whole, the report is positive about the project.

In April, a Lisbon judge ordered excavation work for the tunnel in the busy Marquês de Pombal roundabout area to be interrupted because an environmental impact study had not been carried out. Work on the surface was allowed to continue. The court order was a result of a case filed by Lisbon lawyer, José Sá Fernandes, who later said he had acted out of concern for his beloved city.

“The tunnel can contribute to a better flow of traffic in the area,” says the report, compiled by private company IPA. “In places, it will improve the air quality and level of noise pollution.” Among the measures recommended in the report is a more detailed hydro-geologic study of the ground under Parque Eduardo VII and Rua Castilho and the “installation of a drainage system for underground water in those areas”.

However, it is not known when work on the Túnel do Marquês will be resumed. Only 17 per cent of the tunnel had been completed when the building work was interrupted. Since then, the construction site has been a daily nuisance for drivers coming into or leaving the capital, with many caught in long queues of traffic.

Last week, Lisbon Câmara rejected a proposal to carry out minor, provisional road works along the Av. Duarte Pacheco, which feeds into the Marquês de Pombal roundabout, so that drivers again would have three lanes in each direction at their disposal. A spokesman said that the proposal, made by lawyer Fernandes, was “simplistic”, arguing that at least one lane would continue to be occupied by the construction equipment being used for work on the surface. Sá Fernandes, in turn, considered the Câmara’s reply to be “an insult to the intelligence of the people of Lisbon”.

Câmara Deputy President, Pedro Pinto, retaliated by saying Sá Fernandes had submitted his proposal because of “a bad conscience, because he has realised the problem he has caused and has seen the outcome of the environmental study, which is positive”.

The building of the Marquês de Pombal tunnel to solve traffic congestion in the area was former Câmara President, Pedro Santana Lopes’ flagship election campaign issue. Santana Lopes, who replaced Durão Barroso as Prime Minister in July, later explained that the government at the time had assured him that an environmental study was not necessary for the project.

The study is available from the tunnel co-ordination office in Rua Joaquim António de Aguiar 35, and at Câmara offices in the affected area.