Residents and business owners in Cuenca’s historic district say they are cautiously optimistic about the new 24-hour-a-day tranvía work schedule.
“We just want the work to be finished so we can get back to normal,” says Jorge Serrano, who owns a clothing tienda on Gran Colombia. “Our lives have been in chaos for months and it is killing many of the businesses in the area. The worst part is the delays, when the construction stops for days and we have no idea what’s going on.”
The new 24/7 schedule is the result of negotiation between the city and residents and business owners who have complained bitterly about the slow progress. Tram project manager Gerard Fernandez says the new schedule, which began on Monday, will mean construction will be completed by August. “We understand the discomfort the residents feel,” he says. “The city of Cuenca is also eager to see the work completed but we have been dealing with financial problems that were beyond our control. We believe those have been solved,” he says.
Another agreement between the city and residents is that information about construction will be provided by the municipal ombudsman. “The ombudsman will track progress on the project and share that knowledge with everyone affected,” said Fernandez.
Although businesses owners on Gran Colombia and Mariscal Lamar agree that the new schedule is a step in the right direction, some claim that not all of their concerns have not been answered. “There are still some big issues,” says Serrano. “We will talk about these on Tuesday.” Business owners have scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. Tuesday at the San Andrés Hotel.
One of those concerns is the fact that work that began more a year ago in El Centro is still not complete, and streets have not been reopened. Fernandez says that utility work has required that parts of Gran Colombia and Lamar remain closed for longer than originally anticipated.
Fernandez warned that the new schedule means more intersections will be closed. “This will mean more traffic disruption,” he said. “Traffic police will help reroute traffic and we will finish work at intersections that cross the construction zones as quickly as we can.”
Gabriel Sanchez, business owner in the Nueve de Octubre market area on Mariscal Lamar says she is pleased that work will speed up. “I am in favor of anything to get this done. I just want to get my normal life back,” she says.