Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bogotá's Perpetual Public Works

Ave. 26 , the gorge which swallowed the mayor. 
The way-behind and over-budget Transmilenium expansion project has made lots of headlines recently. It's also landed a senator and several corporate leaders in jail and gotten Mayor Samuel Moreno suspended from office over corruption allegations.

The TM project is the largest, but far from the only, apparently endless public work in this city.

In Teusaquillo: A retirement fund?

Several years ago, they started tearing up a quiet street in Teusaquillo, a few blocks east of the National University. The project's only a few blocks long, altho they are also replacing the water pipes - a project you'd expect would take a couple of months. More than two years later, they're still at work - and far from finishing.

I've heard that corrupt officials sometimes try to squeeze money out of works projects by draaaaaging them out. If that's true, then I expect that a few people will retire comfortably thanks to Bogotá's streets.

Worshippers will have to wait. 

In April 2009 rockslides happened on the face of Monserrate, the mountain which almost symbolizes the Colombian capital, closing its footpath. The 3,125-meter peak, with its almost-four-century-old church, is an important religious and tourist destination and its footpath is used for training by hikers and runners. Despite several switchbacks, the hike was always a challenge for me, and I was amazed to hear that some people bounded up it in 20 minutes. I usually needed an hour and a half.

No hiking here. 

A cable car and a single-car train can also get you to the peak. But many Colombians can't afford the fares,  making the trail their only option for worshipping at the church. On a sunny Sunday many families would do the hike, getting good exercise, seeing the views and enjoying fresh air and time together. I even saw penitents making their way up on their knees.

City officials promised that the trail would be rebuilt - and they've finally done it two years later. However, the church, which owns the trail's final 300 meters, hasn't done its part. Now, church officials promise that their trail will be rebuilt in four months.

Let's hope for a small miracle from el Señor del Monserrate.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours