Underdevelopment of Vehicular Infrastructure
By Jesús Aguado
“When the city was conceived, no one thought about automobiles,” said Samuel Mercadillo, director of the Traffic Department. He also commented that on the Libramiento Manuel Zavala—in front of Fraccionamiento Las Brisas—a group of pedestrians was privileged above all else, but the needs of others, including drivers and passengers, was minimized. That is the reason why there is congestion. San Miguel keeps growing and for that reason there will be improvements to that road.
Mercadillo may not be an expert on transportation issues in the city, but he is an experienced man because this is the fourth occasion that he is working on the situation. His first time was from 1995 to 1997; the second and third went from 2003 to 2009; and he is back now. This director is well known because the pedestrian crossings on the road to Celaya were his idea, as well as the one-by-one system for cars on the streets of the historic center and preference to the pedestrians.
On the matter of roadways, he told Atención that in San Miguel today, compared to in 1995, there have been many changes. At that time all the services offered by the public administration were in El Centro, as well as the banks and even the Tuesday market. Now they are out of the center, yet the city has grown and the congestion has grown, due to the lack of vehicular infrastructure and bad planning by the city.
The main roadway and its problem, a pedestrian crossing
More than 10,000 vehicles a day cross San Miguel through the Libramiento Manuel Zavala in the zone that goes from glorieta (traffic circle) El Pípila to the road to Dolores. Currently during the peak hours the pedestrian crossing in front of Fraccionamiento Las Brisas causes congestion that slows traffic from the glorieta El Pípila in all directions. That speed bump was constructed during the administration of Luz María Núñez.
Director Mercadillo observed that when infrastructure works related to transit are built, those involved need to take into account three elements: pedestrians, drivers, and passengers. When this pedestrian pass was constructed the administration tried to solve the problem of pedestrians, but they generated other problems for drivers and passengers. He attributed that to the lack of resources and an administration that needed to act quickly.
When the libramiento was developed, said the director, there were no neighborhoods off that road and the developers did not think about the needs of pedestrians. But now the road is within the urban area. Mercadillo made it clear that the construction of the speed bump (pedestrian crossing) was not correct, although there was no other alternative. Former mayor Luz María Núñez and her Director of Traffic, Adolfo Cervantes, were under pressure by people blocking the main road of San Miguel.
On Sunday, July 29, 2012 an accident occurred on the libramiento that angered residents. A woman and three children got off a bus. One of the children, under six years old, was run over by a car while crossing the busy roadway. Two days later a motorcyclist was hit by a car that was illegally turning into the Fraccionamiento las Brisas. The driver was taken to the General Hospital and was in serious condition.
A few days later, because of the accidents, residents of the nearby neighborhoods blocked the road for five hours in protest, bringing traffic to a standstill. They asked for the installation of a safe pedestrian crossing and speed bumps. The Federal Police (directly responsible for the road) came, as well as personnel from the SCT (Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes). Mayor Núñez and the secretary of the city council also arrived to help resolve the problem. The road is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. However, the Traffic Director commented that the local government responded because the road crosses through a municipal area and also because the municipal government must try to work to resolve the concerns of citizens. In 2011, the residents from the neighborhoods of Ejido de Tirado also blocked the road because they did not have bridges or pedestrian crossings. Speed bumps and crossings were built and, later, bridges that were never used. The crossings were deconstructed with the modernization of the libramiento.
Although the speed bumps of Fracionamiento las Brisas were taken out three weeks later, then director Cervantes commented that they would remain until those affected could have an answer from the Secretariat of Communications and Transportations. It would be ideal to have an underground crossing, a tunnel in that area, said Cervantes. He gave as an example the underground crossing in Cerritos, which does not impact the traffic. He concluded saying, in 2012, that the problem of las Brisas would be inherited by the 2012-2015 administration, which would have to solve it, and in addition, the roadway is property of the federal government. “The libramiento is an urban problem that requires a macro solution,” said Cervantes. The road is still property of the federal government and the last administration did not provide a solution.
The new project
On November 4, during a meeting with representatives from the Secretariat of Communications, Mayor Ricardo Villarreal commented that he was working to get 115 million pesos from the federal goverment “for one of the biggest projects of infrastructure in San Miguel de Allende.” Finally, the director of Public Works, Felipe Tapia, commented that the local administration already has the money and it will be invested in the libramiento in three stages, including the Boulevard de la Conspiración.
According to Tapia, the Boulevard de la Conspiración has been under maintenance for a renewal of the asphalt because the cost of patching was already exceeding its benefit. It will be improved from the Patrimonio (heritage) glorieta to the Allende glorieta; the works will continue to the entrance of Palmita de Landeta. From the Allende glorieta to the El Pípila glorieta the road would be improved as well.
Samuel Mercadillo suggested that the turning radius of the El Pípila glorieta be expanded because big vehicles cannot get around it very well and the lack of a larger radius has been, among other things, cause of accidents. The traffic circle will be amplified five meters on each side of Salida a Celaya.
The Libramiento Manuel Zavala will be amplified from two to four lanes from the El Pípila glorieta to the Malanquín. The pedestrian crossing will be deconstructed and other solutions (underground) considered. These projects, according to Tapia, are for the benefit of 70 percent of the population that daily crosses the city using the road. The work will start on the last day of December or during the first six days of January and will last for four months.
The director said that they will try to get resources for constructing one more lane from the Puente Bicentenario to Salida a Dolores.
Mayor Ricardo Villarreal had said before that he would support the new roadways to benefit San Miguel including the Bicentennial freeway (the federal and state project that goes from Silao to San Miguel) and a new road to connect the road to Querétaro with the road to Celaya, as well as a new urban road for connecting all the neighborhoods next to San Luis Rey with the salida a Querétaro.