Colombian city gets outdoor escalators

December 28th, 2011 - 11:36 am ICT by IANS  

Bogota, Dec 28 (IANS/EFE) A poor neighbourhood on the western mountainside of the Colombian city of Medellin has been installed with outdoor escalators to solve the problem of people getting up and down steep terrain.

The escalators in six double up-and-down segments have replaced the 350 cement steps that many Las Independencias I residents had to climb as part of their daily routine.

The escalators, a project dubbed Independencias I Connection Pathways, were inaugurated Tuesday by Medellin Mayor Alonso Salazar and the Urban Development Company, or EDU, that tackled the joint initiative four years ago.

“We suggested the escalators as a possible transit solution that would enable people on the mountainsides to get around more easily,” EDU interim chief Luz Adriana Campuzano told Efe.

In Las Independencias I, which is one of the 20 neighbourhoods in Medellin’s Comuna 13 district, there are cases of residents confined to their homes by old age or disabilities.

Some people “couldn’t ever leave their houses because quite simply they had no way to do so”, Campuzano said.

Now they can thanks to Independencias I Connection Pathways, a route of escalators 130 meters long, from the foot of the mountain on which the neighborhood sprang up 30 years ago, to the highest point on the peak.

The project, with a cost of 10 billion pesos (about $5.2 million), involved the Japanese company Fujitec, which designed the escalators and manufactured them at its plant in China, along with Conservicios, a local firm responsible for importing and installing the parts.

Fujitec made the basic elements of stainless steel, used smelted aluminum for the steps and a synthetic resin for the entry platforms.

It’s a “transit solution that will give residents a better quality of life”, Campuzano said.

The escalators are not the first in the world to be installed outdoors, since there are several for purposes of tourism, but this is a first for urban transport.

The official also said that Connection Pathways were conceived as an urban landmark that will help Medellin residents see Comuna 13 in a new way and not as just a dangerous haunt for crime gangs.

Comuna 13 is one of the 15 “comunas”, or districts, that make up the industrial city of Medellin with its more than 2.3 million inhabitants, which has taken the lead in Colombia in urban transport solutions, beginning in the 1990s with a metropolitan train and subsequently with the cable-car project known as Metrocables, which also serves poor mountainside areas.

The line of escalators is the latest chapter in this story of progress, and will not only transport other Comuna 13 inhabitants, who number 130,000 or 5.7 percent of the entire city, but is available to all Medellin inhabitants and tourists as well.

–IANS/EFE
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