In a “state of the city” speech on Friday, Mayor Marcelo Cabrera says that 2014 was a banner year for the city of Cuenca and that 2015 will be even better.
“Cuenca is a great place to live and it’s getting better,” he said Friday at the University of Azuay. He was accompanied on the stage by the presidents of Cuenca’s three largest universities.
The mayor said plans are in place to build 600 houses for low-income families in 2015. “This is just the start,” Cabrera said. “We plan to build many more in the coming years.” He said the plan represents a 70% budget increase for government supported funding over that of the previous administration.
Cabrera reported that the city’s public works department constructed almost seven kilometers of sidewalks and five kilometers of streets last year, in addition to resurfacing 23 kilometers of streets.
New municipal police hired in 2014 are a major factor in lower crime rates, Cabrera said. He said there would be more new hires in 2015. He added that the crime rate in Cuenca has dropped for four consecutive years.
Cabrera said that the big news for 2015 will be continuing work on the new tram system, which he said should be complete in mid-2016. “There will be some discomfort from construction in the coming months but this is necessary to see the project through to completion,” he said. “When the work is complete and the tram is operational, Cuenca will be one of only three cities in South America with this system.”
San Francisco Square reconstruction will begin in 2015, Cabrera said, following design adjustments that are due from University of Cuenca architects by the end of April. “When this is completed, it will be a major attraction not only for the citizens of the city but for the growing number of tourists visiting us,” he said.
Cabrera also said that planning continues for a series of “mega parks” that will provide additional recreational areas and environmental protection for the community.
He also said the city will give away 489 Internet tablets to children whose families cannot afford them.
The mayor has not given up on plans for a massive freeway system that would circle the city, although many consider it “dead in the water” due to tight budgets. Cabrera says he will approach President Rafael Correa for planning money this year. Correa once criticized the freeway, estimated to cost more than half-billion dollars, as the most expensive in Ecuador history.