‘Doble Calzada Oriente’ Would Dramatically Improve Traffic Between Medellin, Rionegro: Proponents
Private-sector developers are stepping-up their push for the proposed “doble calzado oriente” (DCO) four-lane, divided highway between the Sancho Paisa roundabout on the Las Palmas highway (east of Medellin) and the international-airport highway adjacent to Hospital San Vicente Fundacion.
In an August 1 public hearing near Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova (JMC) international airport at Rionegro, DCO proponents revealed details of their currently underway environmental impact assessment (EIA) — and answered some testy questions from a crowd of more than 200 citizens here.
Citing enormous traffic growth in the Oriente region and huge housing-development plans around the Llanogrande district and other neighborhoods near the Rionegro international airport, DCO general manager German Perez explained the rationale for the proposed COP$400 billion (US$138 million), 13.8-kilometers-long DCO.
If the privately funded project wins crucial permits from local environmental agency Cornare, and if required capital is raised, and if the proponents successfully purchase private lands along the route, then DCO could start building this highway as early as mid-2020, Perez told Medellin Herald following his presentation at the public hearing here.
The proposed highway – which would include a toll booth midway (charging at least COP$14,300/US$4.95 per car) — would run roughly parallel to the existing, two-lane “Variante al Aeropuerto” highway between Sancho Paisa and the soon-to-be-opened “Tunel de Oriente” highway connecting Medellin directly to the JMC airport.
The DCO highway would cut through some of suburban-Medellin’s poshest gated-community districts, including the “El Tablazo” neighborhood near the city of Rionegro.
Some of the residents in these areas told DCO proponents here that they’re worried about potential damage to spring-waters, flora and fauna, as well as excessive traffic noise, air pollution and negative impacts upon the tranquility and relative lack-of crime currently enjoyed in the area.
One resident here pointed out that the route would pass through the “Espirito Santo” forest reserve, which has a stream that feeds the “La Fe” water reservoir in El Retiro.
Medellin utility EPM is now building a vast network of pipes to carry that water from “La Fe” to new, burgeoning residential and commercial developments in Llanogrande. So the utility ought to take note of potentially “tragic” damage to water resources as well as the precious “biological corridor” of Espirito Santo, according to one resident here.
Other residents here also complained that the project would unfairly benefit Antioquia Governor Luis Perez, who owns a “finca” (farm) alongside the proposed route.
But the DCO proponents – among which are three board members of Medellin-based highway construction/operating giant Devimed – argue that new highways (including DCO) are critical to avoid a total collapse of traffic in the Oriente region over the next five-to-10 years.
In his presentation, DCO’s Perez dismissed two other proposed alternatives: widening the existing “Variante al Aeropuerto” highway to four lanes, or else widening the two-lane highway between Sancho Paisa and El Retiro to four lanes.
Both of those options would be excessively costly for property acquisitions and would involve steeper grades, slowing traffic, he said. What’s more, some 800 families living and operating small businesses alongside the El Retiro road would confront forced removals, likely triggering a social crisis, he added.
In addition, the main traffic growth in Oriente isn’t around El Retiro, but rather in the suburbs adjacent to Rionegro and La Ceja — and the ever-more-crowded highways connecting those cities to Medellin, he explained.
While some residents may be upset about the proposed DCO highway, they should better direct their complaints to local mayors that continue to issue massive numbers of building permits, bringing ever-worsening traffic jams, DCO’s Perez added.