LET US RETHINK THE RAILWAY CORRIDOR

publicado a la‎(s)‎ 2 ene. 2012 1:18 por Carlos A. Gonzalez G.   [ actualizado el 5 feb. 2012 16:01 ]
Carlos A. González G
.

'El País' Newspaper
Print Edition, Entorno Section, Page A3
Cali-Colombia. 4th January 2011


Opinion article

Original title: 'Repensemos el corredor férreo'

The idea of carrying out the Christmas lighting at the old and forgotten railway corridor of the city of Cali has been useful to remember its importance as a public space and as a mobility axis. Beyond it being an ephemeral Christmas park, this corridor should be rethought from its great potential of becoming the most impressing longitudinal park of the country, and from its strategic characteristic for the metropolitan mobility.

This important urban space, that crosses the city from North to South in a straight line, has remained abandoned since the seventies after the regrettable disappearance of the Pacific railway system. In 1997, the spotlights focused again on the corridor with the failed initiative of implementing a metropolitan train line connecting Cali with the municipalities of Yumbo and Jamundí,. Recently, it hit the headlines again thanks to the decision of Cali’s town hall to use this space to set up the splendid Christmas lighting which attracts thousands of visitors every year. The required question is: What can be done to recover this space permanently for the city?

Distinguished city-planners have proposed several alternatives to intervene a first stretch of 1,8 Km (next to calle 25, between carrera 1 and carrera 15). Some of the proposals are the use of the old railway warehouses to house cultural and commercial activities as well as a thematic museum, the development of a great longitudinal park and the conversion of the old Molino Roncallo building into a public library, among others.

Meanwhile, the great proposal of the mayoralty is to build the Bicentenario Motorway (+ Video) on this corridor, with the hackneyed argument “the competitiveness, the social cohesion and the meeting place for Cali´s citizens”. Only some reflections: How many of you do really think that the 91 000 million Colombian Pesos COP(1) that will be spent this year for the construction of the two over-pass intersections for the present South-Eastern Motorway will in fact compensate for the accelerated vehicle increase, improving the mobility and ensuring the city´s competitiveness? Meeting and enjoyment places? How many of you take your children to play under one of the noisy and smoky overpasses of the city? Think it through well.

It is more sensible for the city to aim for a more efficient use of the road infrastructure, a rational use of the private vehicle and the consolidation of an extensive public transport network with high quality and reliability standards. So, as citizens we should bet on turning the entire old railway corridor into the first “Green Corridor” of Cali, an innovative proposal where public space, sustainable mobility and cultural activity are combined.

Our first challenge is to understand that the implementation of a huge and emblematic longitudinal park, liven up with several cultural activities, a cycling route for daily mobility and for leisure, and an attractive metropolitan massive transport system (Bus Rapid Transit system, tram or a light train); would contribute much more to the city than the idea of giving up “our corridor” for the private sector to build “their motorway” in the middle of the town centre.

Let us rethink the city we wish for tomorrow. While an innovative space such as the “Green Corridor” is a dream for many cities around the world, a motorway such as the Bicentenario has been a nightmare for many others.

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This is a translation of the original version in Spanish entitled 'Repensemos el corredor férreo'. The opinions expressed in this article are solely responsibility of the author and they do not compromise the point of view of any related institution. (1) COP 91 000 million = EU 34.9 million = USD 47.5 million = GBP 29.3 million (Source: OANDA, Febr. 2011)

+ Link to this article on the website of El País Newspaper
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