|Saturday, August 8, 2020
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Projects promised but do they all come to fruition? 

So, the long awaited “coastal path” in La Paz has reopened. It may well be open, but it isn’t finished, nor, if I choose to be a bit pedantic, is it on the coast.
It is really a cliff top path, one with great sea views admittedly; however, the true coastal path, recently renovated by Cabildo which runs alongside the Martiánez tunnel is directly below it. Still what is in a name?  I remember, years ago now, when the project was still a pipe dream, it was described as a small part of a much longer coastal path linking San Juan de la Rambla  to  Santa Ursula, with Puerto de la Cruz forming the ugly concrete bit somewhere in the middle (my description, not theirs).
Now, it’s been four years I think, although it may be longer, since the project first began until its recent reopening. Why so long?  Perhaps, because the first construction company walked away from the project and it seemed to take forever to find their replacement, or perhaps to find the money to fund it. Almost €1.4 million has been spent on it, but is that the real cost or just how much they paid the second company after the false start. Surely the original company, who had worked on it for a while, received some recompense. It was never really explained why they left the project, but that is water under the bridge now, so long ago, and already forgotten.
Yes, it is open, you can enter the path from both ends, it’s just that you can’t walk the whole length of it yet, there is a bit still barricaded off, still unfinished, preventing you. Still I can understand the logic of it, as it has allowed the two very patient businesses who use the walkway as their terrace to reopen, and of course, it allows the Atlantic Mirage Hotel (formerly Bellavista Apart-ments) which has been completely renovated while the pathway has been under construction, to showcase their new outdoor dining area and bar.
The bit still to be finished, which should be completed within the next two months, at least that is what I’ve read, though the reality could be somewhat different, is where the pathway butts up against calle Agatha Christie, a short tree lined avenue that has been used as a site access.  This short street, which has sustained some damage, has become a project within its own right with budget of over €300,000 to make it good, or to improve and enhance it, if you take notice of the official version.
If you are a cynic, of course, you could be thinking that the premature opening could have had an alternative motive. Just think, let’s say, to the give them the benefit of the doubt, the project will be completely finished in a couple of months, a deadline which would be cutting fine for the powers to be to be able to milk the project for all its political worth, before the promotion embargo comes into play in the run up to the local elections in May.
There may not have been an opening ceremony, not yet anyway, so no ribbon cutting, but there has been the official visit to the site by all the noteworthies and their hangers on. The requisite photos have appeared in all the relevant social media sites to ensure the maximum political exposure, and all the local Spanish press have covered the story.  It is a PR success, a job well done as far as they are concerned, but is it really? Let’s put all the positive spin to one side and ask ourselves whether the townsfolk have been given value for money.
This was not a new build. The walkway was already there. It was structurally sound. It was a popular walk.  It just lacked general maintenance and cleaning. Broken lights were not replaced, loose tiles were not repaired, litter was not swept away and weeds were not cleared , so the appearance deteriorated, but it was still serviceable. Did it really warrant the €1.4 million plus that has been spent on it?
Oh, there is no denying it looks better. The distressed metal railings are colourful if nothing else, and won’t look any worse as the salt in the air attacks them. The concrete walls and floor will be hardwearing and in keeping with the new bus station.  At least, they didn’t use those cheap grey tiles from China, the likes of which covers most of the town.  I’ve heard this walkway described as emblematic. In a way I suppose it is, it is certainly representative of how most projects in the town are done and that should not necessarily be viewed as a good thing.
There is no wheelchair access. There will be, ramps are being constructed to access the pathway from calle Agatha Christie, but wheelchair users and babies in pushchairs or prams will not be able to traverse the path from end to end. There wasn’t wheelchair access in the past, but that shouldn’t be the norm, surely accessibility for all users should be the priority for any project. I read that it was not practicable to do so, but have always thought that anywhere there are steps a ramp could be accommodated; all it needs is a bit of ingenuity and some imagination. It is not as if there are space constraints. They said the same about San Telmo years ago where amazingly it was not intended  to have ramps throughout the whole length of the  walkway, until they bowed to public pressure  and the evidence is clear, more people walk up and down the ramps than use the adjacent steps.
A project not quite completed, but one that they can now tick off the growing list of projects promised that have yet to come into fruition. Quite why this one had priority over other projects that most would feel are more urgent for the town perhaps isn’t quite such a mystery if you give the matter a little thought.
Another project nearing completion is the new bus station.  A project deemed so important for the town, another project which suffered years of delays. Is it nearing completion? It certainly doesn’t look like it. I am only going by what the constructors said a few months ago when they were confident the project would be completed by the end of April. I remember the new bus station was a priority of the incoming Mayor almost four years ago. In fact he made an early visit to Madrid to sort out all the paperwork issues he had inherited from the previous administration. So why did it take so long? Never mind the work is in progress and there is light at the end of the tunnel, so I’m sure he will claim it as a success in his re-election manifesto. However, the politicians might be out of luck if they expected to grandstand it, although there is bound be a photo opportunity visit planned in the near future.
I remember when the prospect of a new bus station was first raised, it was then described as of a simple design, somewhere for the buses to pull in, with a ticket office, and a bar I suppose, mustn’t forget that.  It was to be something very similar to what is currently in use, only off the road. As the years passed and the project was delayed it grew into something else as did the proposed budget. However, the eventual plan looked really good, at least the artist’s impressions did, light and airy and very open.  The result sadly is going to look quite different, since it has become obvious, as the construction continues, most the whole site is going to be surrounded by an odd looking poured concrete wall, with holes in it.
I only hope they leave sufficient room for the buses to enter and leave.  I am joking, of course, or am I? Ask any of the long term residents and they will say that when the last bus station was opened some of the longer buses couldn’t make the turn into it. Whether this is true or just an urban myth, well, I wouldn’t like to say, although it does have a ring of truth about it, so I wouldn’t be surprised.