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Mexicali improves glorieta intersection

November 26, 2001|By ARTURO BOJORQUEZ, Staff Writer

MEXICALI — Visitors entering Mexicali from the south will be directly welcomed by "El Tata," the nickname for President Lazaro Cardenas.

But the former president, who died in 1970, hasn't been resuscitated. A 50-foot high monument in front of the government-owned electric company, CFE, has been facing south with open arms the last several weeks.

The monument used to face east.

Its rotation is part of one of the newest city redevelopment projects.

With an investment of 30 million pesos (or $3.2 million) and a few donations from businessmen, the Mexicali city government inaugurated a major road improvement project.

The refurbished intersection of Lazaro Cardenas and Benito Juarez boulevards was opened to the public during an official ceremony Thursday.

Construction on the area started July 6 and ended Wednesday.

According to Anselmo Ruiz, Mexicali's public works director, the intersection has a traffic load of 80,000 vehicles a day.

Ruiz said the improvements will make traffic 20 to 30 percent more efficient, as more than 100,000 cars will travel through easily instead of the 80,000 that had gone through in congestion.


Cars had to wait in long lines before crossing the former "glorieta" or circular block, a style imported to Mexico from France at the end of the 19th century by President Porfirio Diaz.

More than 200,000 vehicles circulate in Mexicali's streets every day. This border city has the highest vehicle per capita in the nation. City officials said the road system in Mexicali needs to be upgraded every three of four years.

State Public Works Director Arturo Espinoza Jaramillo said more construction projects will be done in coming years that will give Mexicali a different shape roadwise.

But change started with rotating the Lazaro Cardenas monument.

After that water, sewer, phone and gas lines, all underneath the monument, had to be replaced.

And last, concrete had to be installed to create the two-level streets. The project includes something similar to an overpass. Lazaro Cardenas traffic will pass underground while Benito Juarez traffic will go around the monument.

Mexicali Mayor Victor Hermosillo said he invited then Baja California Gov. Alejandro Gonzalez to tour the city before the project started.

On the tour, he explained the need to improve traffic conditions on both the intersection and another intersection two miles east, the Cardenas-Gomez Morin traffic intersection.

State government contributed 20 million pesos ($2 million) to the two construction projects.

"Our goal was to make Mexicali in 10 years the best city in the border region," said Hermosillo.

Critics questioned Hermosillo's decision to do the huge construction project instead of paving more streets in poor neighborhoods.

"It was done because there is a lot of traffic here," Hermosillo said.

He said businesses were losing money due to the traffic overload. About 2.4 persons travel in average in every vehicle crossing the glorieta,Hermosillo said 72,000 minutes, or 1,200 hours, were lost every day at that intersection. That meant 438,000 hours per year.

"If we calculate that every hour is paid 20 pesos ($2.15 dollars) in maquiladoras. Then we have that we are losing 8 million pesos ($800,000) per year," Hermosillo said.

That means, he said, with both gasoline and vehicle parts, the city was losing 10 million pesos annually.

"As we invested 30 million (pesos) here, we will have our return in three years," he said.

Public transportation in this city is among the most expensive in Mexico but the service is considered among the worst.

"Mexicali will no longer be a small farm. It is a city," said Hermosillo of the road improvements.

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