Vice President Jorge Glas said on Tuesday that Cuenca’s tram system, scheduled to be completed in 2016, will serve as a transportation model for the country. “It is a highly sophisticated, avant-garde system that fits with Ecuador’s plan to convert to electric energy use,” he said.
“I understand that there is some discomfort during the construction process,” Glas added. “Once this is completed and once the system becomes operational, I think the people of Cuenca will be very proud to be the first city in South America with this means of transportation.”
Glas was accompanied by Ecuador’s Minister of Transportation and Public Works, Walter Solis, on his Cuenca visit. In addition to touring the tram project, the pair is meeting with mayors and transportation personnel from a number of Azuay Province communities.
During their visit, Glas and Solis met with Cuenca Mayor Marcelo Cabrera and Azuay Governor Leonardo Berrezueta to review tram project details and to discuss the city’s master transportation plan. Cabrera continues to push his plan for a freeway bypass of the city, a project estimated to cost more than $600 million, but said it would be discussed in private meetings at another time.
Glas said the tram is the country’s first major transportation project to take advantage of electricity produced by the country’s new hydro-electric generation plants. “This is a work of the next generation for Ecuador,” Glas said. “Unlike the buses, it will not pollute the atmosphere and will at the same time provide an efficient, rapid means of transportation for commuters.”
Cuenca officials brought up the subject of a $17 million funding shortfall in tram funding but Glas said it would not be covered by the federal government. He did, however, commit the government to providing a loan guarantee when the city seeks other funding.
Glas was reportedly shown preliminary plans for a future expansion of the tram system, although there are no present plans to fund it.
City officials say tram construction is 50% complete. Three of the three-car units are already in Cuenca with another three are en route from a factory in France. The tranvía is a $231 million project with 80% of the funding provided by the federal government.