One of the solutions for solving, at least to some extent, Bucharest’s increasingly heavy traffic is the construction of grade separations. This is something all mayors of the past 26 years agreed with. However, their construction seems to be a never-ending odyssey. This is underscored, for instance, by the current state of construction works on the Sudului Square and Ciurel grade separations. And Bucharest’s newly-elected mayor, Gabriela Firea, can only admit this problem she is inheriting from her predecessors and… admit herself defeated.
Despite last-stretch efforts exerted by the authorities and the construction company, works on the Sudului Square grade separation will not be ready at the end of June as scheduled, their rate of completion currently standing at 63 percent. Thus, construction works will not be completed on June 30, as stipulated by the addendum to the financing contract. As a result, the European financing for this project will be lost.
The delay was mainly caused by the erroneous permits issued by utilities companies which did not know precisely the layout of their own underground networks. Only after ground was broken did they notice that the pipes, cables and other utilities infrastructure elements will have to be redirected. The construction works should be finalized by the end of March 2017, according to the latest deadline put forward by the construction company, the Mayor of Bucharest pointed out.
Gabriela Firea stated that if the City Hall has to pay back the sums already allocated by the European Commission for the Sudului Square grade separation then the construction company will be asked to cover them.
“The Bucharest General Council has already approved the allocation, from the local budget, of RON 100 M for the completion of the grade separation. Concerning the recovery of these sums, which should normally have been reimbursed by the European Commission, there are two issues. On one hand, there are the sums paid or to be paid after 31 December 2015, when the two-year extension of the EU’s 2007-2013 financial framework ended. In this case, it’s obvious we cannot talk about reimbursements because we are outside the financial framework. On the other hand, there are the sums already reimbursed by the European Commission. Here the discussion is whether we will have to pay back the money, considering that the project will not be completed by June 30 as stipulated in the addendum to the financing contract. If we have to pay back the money, then we will certainly ask the entrepreneur to cover all sums paid back by the City Hall because the objective was not completed in time,” Firea emphasised.
At the end of May, the City Hall had announced that the works were 80 percent complete and the project was on schedule and was going to be completed on the June 30 deadline.
In what concerns the Ciurel grade separation, construction works started in 2007 and are expected to end in… 2018. At least this is the latest deadline put forward by Bucharest Mayor Gabriela Firea, who visited the work site on Wednesday.
“At this moment, construction works are completed in proportion of just 12.8 percent, the latest deadline being 2018,” Gabriela Firea wrote on Facebook.
“The project should have been completed in 2012 but because the construction works were not very clearly established from the start, a long line of postponements and delays followed. The protests of locals who were not consulted, the lawsuits, the cancellation of some administrative acts in court, the slow rhythm of expropriations, the lack of an area urban plan, all of these have led to the current situation,” Firea explained the years of delays registered by this project.
This grade separation seeks to link the Independentei Boulevard to the Bucharest-Pitesti Motorway, an alternative to the Iuliu Maniu Boulevard, the most polluted in Europe. The grade separation would be of a limited-access road type. According to Bucharest’s 2016 budget, RON 40 M are allocated for this project.
Since Bucharest authorities seem overwhelmed by the current situation of never-ending construction works, drivers and pedestrians will continue to have their patience tested.
Gabriela Firea, elected Bucharest Mayor, was sworn in on Thursday. She was elected Bucharest Mayor on June 5, with 246,553 votes, representing 42.97 percent of the total number of votes cast. Compared to the total number of Bucharesters eligible to vote (1,780,307 persons), Gabriela Firea has been basically elected by 13.84 percent of voters.