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Infrastructure 42

Medellin Expands Electric Bus Recharging Network

Thursday, 11 February 2021 12:09 Written by

Medellin’s continually expanding zero-emissions public transport network got another boost February 10 with the start-up of new charging stations for its 60 pure-electric “Metroplus” buses.

The new stations, in the Patio Fátima neighborhood, enable bus recharging 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to a bulletin from the Medellin Mayor’s Office.

The new station boosts charging capacity for buses serving lines 1, 2 and O of the “Metro” public transit system. This system also includes all-electric “Metro” rail, “Metrocable” aerial trams, surface trams, electric buses and a growing network of “EnCicla” bicycles and bike pathways. Furthermore, by 2026, Medellin will add the "Avenida 80" all-electric light-rail tramway serving many of the city's western neighborhoods.

The new recharging facility at Patio Fátima adds six new bus chargers in addition to seven existing chargers at the Terminal del Sur station and the Universidad de Medellín station, hence making the “Metroplus” operation “more efficient in terms of schedules, flows and recharging capacity,” according to the Mayor’s Office.

“The new chargers, which have 210 kilowatts of power each, allow up to 12 vehicles to be connected simultaneously, giving 300 kilometers of autonomy” per recharge.

Meanwhile, Medellin continues to develop a related “Transport Logistics Center” adjacent to the downtown Olaya Herrera Airport. This project will allow Metro to “expand by 20,000 square meters the recharging, parking and maintenance spaces” for the city’s all-electric vehicle operations.


The long-awaited “doble calzada oriente” (DCO) four-lane divided highway between Medellin's "Las Palmas" eastern highway and the Jose Maria Cordova (JMC) international airport just won a final approval from the Antioquia departmental government.

As a result, construction on the COP$926 billion (US$265 million), 13.7-kilometers-long project will start this year, project leader Constructora Conconcreto announced last night (January 19).

Construction time is estimated at 36 months, meaning the highway would open for traffic by 2023 or 2024.

The entire project will be privately funded, rather than tapping any government funds. Toll booths will enable developers to recoup the investment over the coming decades.

The highway will spur further development in the booming “Oriente” (east of Medellin) region including Rionegro and portions of Envigado.

The new DCO highway will connect with the existing Las Palmas four-lane divided highway eastward from Medellin near the “Sancho Paisa” roundabout, passing through the outlying El Tablazo neighborhood of Rionegro and connecting onward with the existing highway bordering JMC airport into central Rionegro.

Partners in the project include Constructora Conconcreto, Castro Tcherassi and Procopal.

On the new highway, “estimated travel time between the Sancho Paisa roundabout and the José María Córdova Airport in Rionegro will be 12 minutes, with an average speed of 80 kilometers per hour,” according to Conconcreto.


Colombia’s highway infrastructure agency Invias announced December 17 that it is gradually reopening two-way traffic on the Medellin-Bogota highway at kilometer 46, blocked by a recent landslide. 

“So far, 3,500 cubic meters of material have been removed and progress is being made in the controlled unloading of 40,000 cubic meters of loose material for safe removal,” according to Invias.

To remove the landslide and enable a temporary traffic bypass, Invias is using 14 earth-moving machines and also buiding a temporary dike to halt further landslides in the area, according to the agency.

Invias Director Juan Esteban Romero Toro added that "if weather and security conditions allow, we will keep mobility enabled in the corridor through a variant” built 15 meters distant from the adjacent landslide area.

The new variant “will allow the passage to be maintained in a bidirectional manner 24 hours a day, guaranteeing the safety of users,” according to Invias.

Highway users can dial the “#767” information number for updated information on the state of highway reconstruction work, according to the agency.


Colombia President Ivan Duque, Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero and Antioquia Governor Aníbal Gaviria on November 30 joined in Bogota at an official signing ceremony guaranteeing finance for Medellin’s newest mass-transit project: the COP$3.54 trillion (US$991 million) Avenida 80 light-rail system.

Under the deal, the Colombian government will contribute COP$2.4 trillion (US$672 million) or 70% of the capital cost, while the city of Medellin will contribute the remaining 30% (COP$1.14 trillion/US$319 million).

Once completed by 2026, the new addition to Medellin’s world-class, zero-emissions mass-transit system – already serving more than 1 million passengers daily -- will extend 13.25-kilometers in length along the crowded Avenida 80 corridor, serving 17 stations in western neighborhoods that house nearly one-third of Medellin’s residents.

The light-rail system will connect with Medellin’s existing “Metro” elevated rail network, a growing network of electric aerial tram lines, the “Metroplus” bus rapid transit lines, “EnCicla” free bicycles, and dedicated bicycle paths throughout the city, all offering clean and relatively efficient alternatives to polluting car and motorcycle transport.

At the Bogota ceremony marking the official launch of the Avenida 80 project, President Duque recalled his childhood in Medellin, “starting with the Boston neighborhood, the neighborhood where my family lived for decades,” he said.

“Today, when I see that this dream [of an Avenida 80 tramway] becomes possible, I also see that this is in harmony with a vision of a country that is not in ideological conflicts. These [public infrastructure] projects are neither of the right wing nor of the left, they are of common sense, of well-being, of the entire community.

“[Likewise], the development of the Software Valley [in Medellin], that is not left or right wing, it is common sense to appropriate technology to transform the community. The entrepreneurial projects and ‘green’ projects that we have been developing are neither from the left nor from the right, they are common sense so that we have a vision of clean growth,” he added.


Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced October 19 that the “Mar 1” highway project connecting Medellin westward to current and future Atlantic ports has jumped-ahead to 75% completion.

Meanwhile, the “Vias del Nus” highway project linking Medellin northward to the “Ruta del Sol” connection to Cartagena and Santa Marta is now 70% complete, according to ANI.

The “Mar 1” project includes construction of the second tube of Medellin's existing “Tunel al Occidente” tunnel (4.6 kilometers, due for completion by end-2022), as well as a new bridge over the Cauca river (426 meters), eventually connecting “ Mar 1” to the “Mar 2” highway -- including the new “Túnel del Toyo” (aka “Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri”) project, Colombia’s longest highway tunnel.

“Mar 1” has a total length of 181 kilometers, “connecting Medellín with the main commercial exchange centers such as the Caribbean Coast, the Pacific Coast and the Magdalena River,” according to ANI.

The COP$1.8 trillion (US$468 million) project includes 43 viaducts, including 18 completed, 23 in construction and two not-yet started.

“The Mar 1 and Mar 2 projects, together with the Pacific 1, 2, 3 toll roads, will facilitate foreign trade to and from the coffee region,” ANI vice president Carlos García said.

“Currently, the travel time in a truck from the coffee region to Urabá [Atlantic ports] is 21 hours, but with the construction of these projects it will be reduced to 12 hours,” García added.

Vías del Nus Update

Meanwhile, ANI reported October 9 that the COP$1.2 trillion (US$312 million) “Vías del Nus” highway project heading northward from Medellin is now 70% complete.

Another 40 kilometers of that highway has just opened, part of what eventually will stretch 156 kilometers, crossing the Magdalena River and joining with the “Ruta del Sol” highway to northern Caribbean ports.

The entire “Vías del Nus” project is now expected to be complete by first-half 2021, according to ANI. That highway will enable traffic speeds of 80 kilometers/hour and will slash travel times between Pradera (just north of Medellin) and Alto de Dolores (Antioquia).

A crucial section of “Vías del Nus” includes the COP$673 billion (US$175 million) twin-tube “La Quiebra” tunnels, eliminating an historic bottleneck that has snagged freight traffic between Medellin and northern Antioquia for more than 100 years. The “La Quiebra” tunnel project is now 76% complete, according to ANI.


Medellin-based utilities giant EPM announced October 16 that it has now completed all 35 scheduled measures to slash foul odors from its recently inaugurated “Aguas Claras” sewage treatment plant in the northern Medellin suburb of Bello.

The only remaining measure (number 36) is to complete a neighborhood survey asking local people about the effectiveness of the technical measures undertaken to avoid foul odors from the plant, according to EPM.

EPM subsidiary Aguas Nacionales just presented its progress report on "Aguas Claras" to the Antioquia Departmental Environmental Council (CODEAM).

“CODEAM, which has met periodically since February of this year, is made up of representatives of the [neighboring] Bellanita community, councilors and representatives of the Community Action Boards of the [plant’s] area-of-influence, Secretary of the Environment of the Government of Antioquia, Bello’s Secretary of Environment, the Bello Health Secretariat, Medellín and Bello Comptrollers’ Offices, the Health and Social Protection Section of the Antioquia Government, the Metropolitan Area ofValle de Aburrá [AMVA] and EPM,” according to the company.

“According to the measurements of Aguas Nacionales and EPM, which are reported and monitored by AMVA within CODEAM, odors have been considerably reduced, as of the fulfillment of this optimization plan. It has been about eight months of work to overcome the odor conditions that were presented at the beginning of 2020.

“With the San Fernando sewage treatment plant (located in the southern Medellin suburb of Itagüí) and Aguas Claras (in Bello) now operating, EPM treats 84% of the wastewater coming from homes, businesses, industries and companies in the Aburrá Valley,” the company added.


Antioquia’s departmental government officially announced September 24 that the national government will finalize on November 11 a COP$1.4 trillion (US$365 million) financing package for the crucial “Tramo 2” (phase-two section) of new highway linked to the under-construction Toyo Tunnel westward from Medellin.

The Toyo Tunnel – also known as “Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri” – when completed in 2023 will become Colombia’s longest highway tunnel, part of the “Mar 2” highway project linking Medellin to current and future Atlantic freight ports.

The Toyo Tunnel project – now about one-third excavated – is funded by the city of Medellin (COP$530 billion/US$138 million) and the Antioquia departmental government (COP$795 billion/US$208 million).

But that tunnel would have been orphaned from the entire Mar 2 highway project unless the national government had followed-through on its promise to fund the “Tramo 2” highway section between Santa Fe de Antioquia and the Toyo Tunnel entrance.

“We had the great announcement of the contribution that the national government will ensure COP$1.4 trillion for the phase-two portion of this project,” said Lina Vélez de Nicholls, executive director of the Medellín Chamber of Commerce for Antioquia. “This is a great effort because the competitiveness of our region depends on this work as well as the [connecting] Mar 1 and Mar 2 highways to the [Caribbean] sea.”

Juan Pablo López Cortés, Antioquia’s Secretary of Physical Infrastructurea, added that “this [financing] commitment of the nation ratifies the joint effort made for our region and is very positive, both for the project and for the productivity and competitiveness of Antioquia. Having [financing commitments] will allow us to start contracting for the construction of phase-two of the Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri Tunnel” project.

The 19.4-kilometers-long Phase Two section will include 11 new tunnels, 13 new bridges and an additional 12.5 kilometers of regular highway.


The Medellin-based Covipacifico construction consortium announced September 18 that the “Pacifico 1” highway between Medellin’s southern suburbs and the Cauca River town of Bolombolo is now 50% complete.

The COP$2.78 trillion (US$725 million) project, once completed in 2023, would dramatically reduce transit times between Medellin and southwestern Antioquia, connecting to “Pacifico 2” and “Pacifico 3” super-highways all the way to the Pacific port of Buenaventura.

According to Covipacifico, 65 bridges partially or totally built along the route so far account for 62% of total Pacifico 1 progress, while road completions account for more than 42%, with the result that the whole project is now at 50% completion.

“We are very satisfied with the rhythm of execution achieved in the works,” having largely overcome challenges including strict protocols for Covid-19 prevention as well as two significant landslides in two separate areas, project manager Mauricio Millán Drews noted.

According to Covipacifico, “in the four functional units that make up the project, there is permanent and parallel progress between the municipalities of Amagá and Venecia, where the first 5.4 kilometers of that section are near completion,” including “definitive lining of the La Sinifaná tunnel (on both sides) and more progress in road paving. Work also continues on electrical lighting installations, as well as fire prevention and drainage networks.”

Progress also includes “completion of eight of 10 bridges between the town of Bolombolo and La Sinifaná “ while in total, “Pacífico 1 records a notable advance in the construction of 65 bridges, 18 of which are already completed.”

As for construction of 23 kilometers of new highway being built on steep mountainside slopes, Covipacifico explained that it is carrying-out stabilization works on slopes and embankments, as well as building new road interchanges at Sinifaná, Titiribí and Camilo C.

“Among the distinctive works is the Amagá tunnel – actually two tubes -- each tube with a distance of 3.6 kilometers, for a total length of 7.2 kilometers, of which 4.3 kilometers are already excavated,” according to Covipacifico.

 


Agencia Nacional de Infraestrucutura (ANI, Colombia’s national infrastructure agency) announced August 21 that the COP$1.7 trillion (US$443 million) “Pacifico 2” highway linking Medellin and southwest Antioquia to the Pacific port of Buenaventura is now 89% complete.

The 96.5-kilometers-long “Pacífico 2” project is linked to “Pacific 3” southward and “Pacifico 1” northward, enabling high-speed traffic through southwestern Antioquia -- and crucial for reducing the cost of freight traffic between Medellin and ocean ports.

Pacifico 2 includes the 2.5-kilometers-long, four-lane, twin-tube “Mulatos” tunnel, as well as 40 bridges, 37 kilometers of new, four-lane divided highway, three kilometers of new two-lane highway, rehabilitation of 54 kilometers of existing highways and operation and maintenance of 71 kilometers of highway, according to ANI.

“The Mulatos tunnel is 81% complete and the [new] Cauca Bridge is currently 90% complete,” according to ANI.

“Functional Unit 2 between Puente Iglesias and the beginning of the Mulatos Tunnel has registered 91% progress,” while “Functional Unit 4” – which runs from the Mulatos Tunnel to the Bolombolo sector of Antioquia “is now 77% complete,” according to ANI.

“Functional Unit 1 in the La Pintada and Puente Iglesias sectors and Functional Unit 5 between La Pintada and Primavera are finished and in operation and maintenance,” the agency added.

“With the chain of projects Pacífico 1, 2 and 3, foreign trade to and from the coffee region and Medellín will be facilitated. Currently, the travel time in a truck from Medellín to [the Pacific port of] Buenaventura, takes 15 hours. With the construction of these projects it will be reduced to 10 hours,” according to ANI.

Landslide Near ‘La Siria’ Won’t Cause Delays

Meanwhile, ANI and “Pacifico 1”construction contractor Covipacifico announced August 17 that a recent landslide on one of the slopes under construction near “La Siria” -- between bridges 18 and 19 of the Pacífico 1 project – will be cleared and restored in coming months, but won’t delay the over-all project.

The landslide wrecked a new section of highway being built between Bolombolo and Medellín -- without damaging the existing highway -- “so there is no impact on mobility to and from Southwest Antioquia” and Medellin, according to ANI.

The "La Siria" landslide is the second such event over the past 15 months on the 50-kilometers-long, four-lane divided Pacifico 1 project, with an earlier event at Sinifaná having already been cleared.

Because of these two landslides, ANI and Covipacifico just launched a new audit of other potentially vulnerable portions along the route “to guarantee that once the works are concluded they do not present any type of affectation,” according to ANI.

The COP$2.78 trillion (US$725 million) Pacífico 1 project is 46.6% complete and the developers aim to complete it by 2023.


Colombia President Ivan Duque announced August 13 that the crucial “Mar 1” and “Mar 2” highways -- including the Toyo Tunnel and Tunel de Occidente -- as well as the proposed “Puerto Antioquia” freight port on the Caribbean are his highest priorities for accelerated advance or completion before his term ends in 2022.

Speaking August 13 at a ceremony here marking the just-completed tunnel boring at Medellin’s second “Tunel de Occidente” (West Tunnel) linking Medellin westward to Santa Fe de Antioquia, Duque confirmed that his administration also aims to ensure completion of tunnel boring of Colombia’s longest highway tunnel – the 19.4-kilometers-long Toyo Tunnel in Antioquia -- which today is only one-sixth-of-the way completed.

Transport Secretary Ángela María Orozco had earlier confirmed that the Colombian government would arrange COP$1.4 trillion (US$370 million) in credits for the Toyo tunnel (also known as Tunel Guillermo Gaviria Echeverri) by end-September 2020.

The new, 4.6-kilometers-long, second Tunel de Occidente tube --  adding two more lanes adjacent to the existing tube -- has a projected cost of COP$420 billion (US$108 million) and is due for completion by end-2022, according to contractor Devimar.

Having the second tube completed will enable four lines of divided highway as part of the high-speed “Mar 1” project linking Medellin westward to current and future Atlantic ports. The existing highway tunnel is restricted to two-way traffic on single lanes and suffers much congestion.

“Mar 1” eventually will link to “Mar 2” (including the Toyo Tunnel) all the way to the Caribbean, slashing freight traffic times between Medellin and Atlantic ports to just four hours, rather than eight hours currently.

The "Mar 1” project (already 70% complete) and the connecting “Mar 2” highway projects are projected to be completed by 2023, assuming that Toyo Tunnel finance indeed is finalized promptly, as promised. 


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U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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