A new study by Spanish urban design consultants has determined what most Cuencanos already know: most streets in the historic district are clogged with cars.
The Report on Transportation and Public Spaces, compiled by the Junta de Andalucía, said traffic was at “unacceptable levels” on streets in the center of the district, particularly Simon Bolivar, Presidente Borrero, Presidente Cordova, Sangurima, Hermano Miguel and Tarqui.
The study says that more than 90% of traffic is from cars, with the balance from trucks and buses. It says that bicycle use is less than one percent.
The consultants recommend the conversion of several streets to pedestrian-only areas, shifting traffic to underused streets outside the core of the historic district, reducing the speed limit, and building parking lots at the perimeter of the district.
The first major change, according to the report, should be closing either Luis Cordero or Benigno Malo to vehicular traffic between Parque Calderon and Calle Larga. The street should then be converted to pedestrian and bicycle use only, the study says.
Jose Luis Cañavate, who directed the study, said Cuenca’s historic district could become “one of Latin America’s most attractive public spaces” if changes are made and recommendations adopted.
Mayor Marcelo Cabrera welcomed the report and said implementation of some of the recommendations will begin later this year. “The changes will be painful, but they are necessary to ensure a high quality of life in El Centro,” he said.
The mayor said that the restoration of San Francisco Plaza and refurbishment of Parque Calderon are among the coming changes, and will involve restrictions on traffic. He also cited the project to open Calle Santa Ana, an alleyway beside the cathedral that is currently bricked shut. The street will be crafts fair with small restaurants, he said.
Cabrera also said that more restrictions on vehicular traffic will be imposed when the tram system becomes operational in late 2016. “This is part of our overall mobility plan,” he said.
The city of Cuenca contracted with the Junta de Andalucía in 2013 to guide historic district changes. Cabrera says he is committed to following the group’s recommendations.