Just as the light rail system currently under construction was the transportation priority for outgoing Cuenca mayor Paúl Granda, a freeway project to divert traffic from the central city tops Mayor-elect Marcelo Cabrera’s list.
In fact, during Cabrera’s previous term as mayor, from 2005 to 2009, studies began on the highway project known as the “ring road.” During the 2014 mayoral campaign, Cabrera charged that Granda had put the project on the back-burner in favor of Tranvia de los Cuatro Rios, the new train system.
Once he assumes official duties in May, Cabrera says he will press forward with planning for the highway. The federal government has allocated $800,000 to complete feasibility and engineering studies.
Based on current plans, the limited access six-lane highway will cover 53 kilometers, connecting the towns and parishes of Llacao, Ricaurte, Sidcay, Sinincay, San Joaquin, Sayausí, Baños and Tarquinia. The highway project also includes construction of seven bridges, walls to stabilize slopes and reduce noise and several feeder roads into Cuenca.
According to Cabrera, the road will divert 10,000 vehicles per day from central Cuenca. “The train will help but the highway will have a much bigger impact,” he says.
Although final estimates are not available, city staff says the highway will cost $350 to $380 million, $100 million more than the light rail system.
According to transportation officials in the Granda administration, the highway continued to be studied and the work was not put on hold. “It’s a massive project for Cuenca and the planning requires time,” said one official.
Photo caption: A artist’s conception of Cuenca’s new freeway.