Cuenca will see the beginning of two major infrastructure projects in 2013 while two others will be completed.
After the Cuenca city council gave final funding approval to the new light rail system, Travia de los Cuatro Rios, national transportation minister Jaime Pesantez announced that construction of the quarter-billion dollar system will begin February 11. The city’s contribution to the project is $51 million while the balance will be paid by the federal government, aided by loans from the French and Chinese governments.
According to Pesantez, the funding will also pay for a comprehensive 25-year city mobility plan that will consider transportation needs and pollution remedies through the year 2039.
Construction of the 21-kilometer light rail system will take 24 months to complete. Rails will run along Av. Las Americas on the southwest side of the city, through the historic district, to Av. España and Parque Industrial in the northeast. The system follows a design popular in France, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. The system will have a capacity of 120,000 passenger rides per day.
The other large project to begin in early 2013, is the reconstruction of San Francisco Plaza, two blocks south of the cathedral. The work includes construction of a three-story structure with underground parking for 200 cars. The upper two levels will include artisan shops and a food court. Cost of the project is $5 million.
Originally scheduled to begin in mid-2012, work on San Francisco Plaza has been delayed by concerns about maintaining historic district architectural standards. Several local architects claimed that the project design was too modern and clashed with exisiting buildings surrounding the square. A series of meetings between the architects and various committess were held to resolve differences.
Meanwhile, work on Parque de la Madre will be completed in March 2013. The 15-month, $5.5 million project included a 220-car underground parking facility, new athletic running and walking tracks and training facilities. The park was the training ground for Ecuador’s only Olympic gold medalist, Jefferson Perez.
In addition, a new $6. million bus terminal on Av. Las Americas at Feria Libre will open in February or March. Work on the station is mostly complete and it only awaits installation of mechanical systems to begin operations.
Among the smaller projects scheduled for 2013 are upgrades to several city parks and the restoration of dozens of municipal fountains. In addition, several historic buildings wiill undergo renovation, including Casa Chaguarchimbana, the metal-works museum south of Pumapungo.
Volcan Tungurahua is still spitting fire
More than two dozen minor explosions and 95 small earthquakes were recorded Monday at the Tungurahua volcano in the central Andes, east of Ambato. According to Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute, "The seismic activity continues at a moderate level as magma levels in the crater remain high.” The institute reported that ash fall continued to be a problem in villages near the volcano and that small lava flows continued down the flanks of the the mountain.
The institute reported that moderate activity was expected to continue, with explosions followed by periods of relative calm. It said that ash clouds were too low to affect air travel.
Photo caption: Cuenca's light rail system begins construction in 2013.