Colombia’s national authorities have given a green light to a metro system in the capital Bogota, but the future of the project remains uncertain.
On September 25, Colombia’s National Political-Economic and Social Committee (CONPES) approved a proposal for the national government to finance 70% of Bogota’s proposed above-ground metro system, 75 years after the mass transit idea was first mooted.
With CONPES’ decision, the metro is now a financially viable project, but it will only move forward if local and national governments take bureaucratic steps they have failed to take in the past.
At an estimated cost of $4.1 billion, the metro will be financed with approximately $3 billion from the national government and $1.28 billion from the City. That’s the recommendation CONPES made to the national and local governments, but the co-financing agreement still needs to be formalized in an official contract.
Mayor Enrique Peñalosa now needs Bogota City Council to approve future budgets for the metro, and the national government needs a National Fiscal Policy Committee to approve the government’s future budgets as well before the project can move forward.
Once those steps are complete, Mayor Peñalosa will open up a call for construction proposals.
Inconsistency and corruption
The idea of a metro in Bogota is by no means a recent proposal.
In 1942, Mayor Carlos Sanz was the first to propose the idea to city residents. He ultimately opted for a tram instead.
By the 1950s, as the metropolis began growing more quickly, the collapse of Bogota’s Tramways system made evident the pressing need for a modern form of mass transport.
Since 1967, multiple mayors have made proposals for a metro system and at least twelve studies investigating the viability of the system have been carried out.
Still, Bogota remains without a metro and the exploratory studies alone have cost the city upwards of $90 million, according to Caracol Radio.
While many proponents of the metro celebrate CONPES’ recent approval of a co-financing structure for the mass infrastructure project, few have forgotten the moment two years ago when President Juan Manuel Santos gave then-mayor Gustavo Petro a check for over $4 billion to finance an underground metro system.
That project ultimately failed after Colombia’s economy took a downturn and a series of expensive studies found the initiative would cost at least twice as much as originally proposed.
Bogota is currently forced to depend on a weathered bus system to provide transport for some 7 million people each day.
The poor public transportation system in one of the world’s most populated cities has resulted in regular congestion of vehicles and routes, as well as bad air pollution.
The current proposal for a metro involves an above-ground metro line with 15 stations and a total distance of nearly 24 kilometers. City officials claim the system could move an additional 72,000 passengers at rush hour compared to the current system.