Seventy years in the making, the scheduled construction of Bogota’s first metro line has been delayed yet again in the face of financial woes.
The National Finance for Development agency has suspended the financial structuring of the metro plans, putting into question the 2017 date to begin definitive construction.
Currently $3.3 billion sits in the Bogota mayor’s piggy bank for the long-awaited metro system in Colombia’s largest urban center, but the temporary suspension of its development could push the date back even further.
In March, President Juan Manuel Santos passed a check to outgoing Mayor Gustavo Petro to cover 70% of costs for the first line’s construction. With this check, Santos also passed on the responsibility of scraping together the remaining $1.4 million USD needed for the mega-project.
The new mayor-elect Enrique Peñalosa led his campaign on the premise of the metro system, but with the recent setbacks, the new Bogota leader will face steep challenges in materializing his goal when he takes office on January 1, 2016.
The $3.3 million set aside for the project are now frozen in the bank, just as the country is experiencing an economic deceleration which will lead to budget cutbacks in 2016. To add more difficulty, the recent hike in the dollar has further increased the project’s expenses.
Ricardo Montezuma, an expert from the NGO Human City focused on Colombia’s urban development, sees huge financial obstacles for the project, but emphasized it’s up to the new mayor to find a way to finally bring the city the much needed transportation system.
“I don’t worry about the money because it doesn’t exist, less now that the budget is being cut, inflation is going to reach 6% and the dollar is at almost $3,000 pesos. The question isn’t if Peñalosa can create the metro, it’s if he wants to or not,” Montezuma told El Tiempo.
The construction of the Metro de Bogotá has been the subject of debates and studies since the 1950s when the collapse of the Bogotá Tramways made evident the need for a modern form of mass transport for the fast-growing metropolis.
Until now, Bogota, a rapidly expanding metropolitan city, has been forced to depend solely on a weathered bus system to provide transport for some 6.8 million people each day.
Bogota remains a city plagued by poor public transportation systems, resulting in congestion and saturation of public vehicles and routes throughout one of the world’s most populated cities.
The residents of Bogota afforded Peñalosa a second chance to ensure that the needs of the city are met with his recent election, banking on the hope that the mayor’s plan to ‘recover Bogota’ is more than just a campaign slogan.
This article was first featured at ColombiaReports.com, Colombia’s leading English-language source for news and analysis.