Work started on New Controversial Bridge on Lake Garzon
The region of Jose Ignacio, 32 km east from Punta del Este is one of the most beautiful regions of Maldonado. Land has been chosen carefully along the years and plenty of investors have found here a wonderful opportunity to admire the eastern beauty of Uruguay. Yet, during 60 years, the Lake Garzon has divided the region of Rocha and east of Maldonado, despite several political and private intents to connect the two shores. Added to the years of controversy, nor Rocha or Maldonado wanted a connecting bridge on Lake Garzon for various reasons, debating between environmental protection and possible developments. During all these years, a system of rafts had made it possible to reach the eastern side which has been very picturesque for many tourists but did not guarantee 24 hour service and were conditioned to the weather. To connect Jose Ignacio to the other east side, people need to drive 30 km up to National Highway 9.
Finally a new bridge project was approved and the company Las Garzas Blancas SA, owned by the Argentine businessman Eduardo Constantini, who owns a private neighborhood project of 240 hectares in the western area next to the lake, has started the building of the bridge that could connect the regions of Maldonado and Rocha. This has been a process in itself ever since the initial project was presented. It was felt that a traditional bridge would lead to vehicles to use this structure as a highway, and the meaning of this environmentally protected area would be lost.
Bridge with three Curves
The architect Rafael Vinoly developed an alternative bridge project, more environmentally friendly, circular in shape and of a light structure set on stilts. The idea is to “minimize the environmental and visual impact,” Vinoly said, adding that the shape of the bridge itself is unique. The structure will be high enough to allow the passage of boats. No items may be placed below the bridge that can interfere with navigation or movement of fish. It will have a spacewalk and wooden rails with a unique design to make it almost a tourist attraction and to respect the lake’s Eco system at the same time. It’s not an ordinary bridge, mainly for slow circulation, high speed and heavy traffic will not be allowed.
Action at Last
In the quiet arenas where only an occasional boat floats near the shore, 15 busy workers were installing containers last Friday, while groups of cars had a logistical meeting to define the details where the bridge will be set. This is just the beginning. It is estimated that at the time of greatest activity it will take at least a hundred construction workers, coming from both Rocha and Maldonado, as agreed by the company. Hoping on good weather conditions, the estimated time for the completion will be 18 months. It will nevertheless attract many tourists during summer 2015 to the area of Jose Ignacio and Laguna Garzon to watch this unique bridge being built.
A fragile Eco System
The Laguna Garzon represents a transparent pool of 1,750 hectares and is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by a sandy offshore barrier that opens periodically either naturally or artificially by human action. The National Direction of Environment is now working to handle the necessary precautions when entering the protected area to minimize the impact of increased traffic on the flora and fauna. This is a staged process. The Ministry of Transportation has several restrictions to be implemented to establish noise monitoring on the lake and how the increase of population might affect it.
The cost of the work has changed since the original project from 2008. Several were implemented for environmental reasons. The new bridge at the Garzon will cost the Estate at least US$5.5 million. Ministry of Transport and Public Works (MTOP) negotiates with Argentine Eduardo Costantini to finance half the cost, Constantini has agreed to pay more than US$6.5 million of the total cost of the bridge which is estimated to be between US$12 and US$13 million. The Estate will also take care of some of the work such as the entrance to the bridge and railings and additional road access. Now we are talking of a bridge 3 times larger than the original sketch and therefore the cost increased almost by 85%.
A new Neighborhood
Changing the system of rafts to a bridge over the lake Garzon will indirectly impact on enterprises on the other side and turn it into a potential investment area.The new projects Las Garzas & Las Carcavas which is in itself a private neighborhood of 500 houses to be built within 10 years is clearly the beneficiary of this new project over the Lake Garzon. There will be an investment of U$S350 million in urbanization in this new neighborhood. There are approximately 500 individual lots averaging 2,000 square meters which can be built up to 35 % of the area costing from $133,000 up to 1.7M ocean front line. The project will be completed in approximate two years and by that time the bridge Garzon will already be finished.
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