Automobile Tunnel at Paseo de Montejo, Glorieta de la Paz

This is the flier that we distibuted at almost every rally and meeting for the four months prior to the Goverment´s decision to build the tunnel anyway.

In 2011, the City announced its intention to facilitate traffic movement by constructing a tunnel at one of the major rundabouts on the magnificent tree-lined Paseo de Montejo and its extensión, a facility beloved by the region´s citizens as their crown jewel.

Massive unprecedented opposition was expressed by almost every city sector-the 40 major businesses and many other merchant associations, all the architectural schools, neighborhood’s group, and organizations concerned with environmental, historic preservation, and tourism issues.

Mérida Verde played a key role in this controversy by being one of the very first organizations in the region to publicly oppose the project because of its process flaws and severe adverse impacts. A key contribution was our two-slided project position paper, shown below, which was widely distributed at public meetings, excerpted by various media, and elaborated upon by local researchers and academics.

The tunnel … Big Concern Affairs. Analysis of Merida Verde, A.C.

The process.

There isn´t quantitative information on the purpose and need for the project, or an official statement of what we are trying to achieve. If it is to reduce accidents, does it happen more in the gazebo in other parts of the city? If it is to reduce time, is this roundabout more congested than others? How much time is saved with the tunnel? Was there a comprehensive dialogue on the result of increasing the speed of cars on the Paseo de Montejo? Do the project managers understand that any time savings will be momentary immediately … because the effect is increased by the phenomenon of induced demand?

It seems strange that the planned tunnel allegedly part of a much wider Municipal Roads Plan, is being still a closely guarded secret … at least to the public.

There is a disturbing lack of studies supporting the tunnel, and if they exist, they are not shared or they are completely inadequate. As published in the Journal, there are studies of structure and subsoil, but we still do not understand why they are hidden or participation of citizens refused. In general, a project of this nature and should include preliminary engineering studies and a detailed study on the environmental impacts along with the impact of the tunnel on historical, social and economic factors, as well as transport properties, aesthetics, and quality of life. Because of its environmental contamination, they should also consider secondary and tertiary impacts throughout the setting. Similarly, it should disclose detailed budgets with cost-benefit analysis.
How can you make a valid decision on the project without these essential tools? It is very alarming the lack of collective planning. Architects, planners and engineers from around the world know that the best projects are developed in full collaboration. This has been repeatedly documented in urban development policies and the question is why it is not a practice of the Municipality of Mérida.

Whereas funds available, can we trust those oral statements saying that the project will cost one hundred million pesos without knowing a detailed analysis? Have authorities dialogued or analyzed how much money could be spent in a better benefit for and Meridians? For example, why not improving sidewalks of Central and Paseo de Montejo, or invest in a Metro Bus, or solving forgotten mobility of the south of the city?

Best Use of Paseo de Montejo.

Without doubt, the Paseo de Montejo and its subsequent extension to the north is a heritage of the city, an attraction for tourists and Meridians. We recognize that it is a very important route for easy access and vehicular circulation, but in the 21st century could it be discussed as the sole purpose is this?

Historical Preservation.

The Paseo de Montejo is not only an obvious historical symbol of Mérida, but an aesthetic experience, a strong tourist attraction as a space for walking and biking, a meeting place for collective enjoyment. It is necessary to protect the environment for the future and, therefore, any plan to “improve” this invaluable cultural heritage should be developed within broader, comprehensive and participatory schemes. Certainly, none of that seems to have taken into account within the tunnel plan submitted by the Municipality.

Negative impact on property values.

The Paseo de Montejo maintains high levels of goodwill, but the construction of this ugly and anti-ecological tunnel will obviously have an immediate adverse effect on these values. Surely, businesses included in the affected area will also suffer from a decrease or lack of commercial activity during and after construction and impacting many jobs.

Future mobility models.

We raise our voices against turning the Paseo de Montejo on a high-speed corridor and we propose to regulate the use of cars in this important viality promoting school bus and public transportation with a Metro Bus. Instead of trying to transform Merida into a poor imitation of a”big city”, cutting edge solutions should be adopted, urban centers that have retained their special character to improve the environment with fewer vehicles but more trees and spaces for pedestrians and bicycles: A Mérida who chooses green and sustainable solutions while maintaining a high quality of life for the entire city. For that, we don´t need not go very far, because examples abound.

Induced demand…

Because of this phenomenon recognized in the world of urban planning, it is necessary to study the long term effects of the tunnel. That is, once facilitated the movement of traffic in a designated space, it will become congested immediately causing a real heat island, leaving us with serious problems of congestion, noise, air quality and pollution of groundwater.

Coordination with other government plans…

Finally, how is this plan coordinated with the conservation of southern Paseo de Montejo? … With this idea of Urban Development of permanent spaces for bicycles and plans again and again postponed on public transport and housing? Above all, what would brag attempts history and make it attractive to both tourism and Meridians for?