Wed, Dec 28, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Colombian shantytown gets giant outdoor escalators

AP, BOGOTA

General view of the escalators at Comuna 13 neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia, after their inauguration on Monday.

Photo: AFP

Officials in Colombia’s second-largest city on Monday inaugurated a giant outdoor escalator for residents of one of its poorest areas.

For generations, the 12,000 residents of Medellin’s tough Comuna 13, which clings to the side of a steep hillside, have had to climb hundreds of large steps authorities said is the same as going up a 28-story building.

Now they can ride an escalator that Medellin’s mayor said is the first massive, outdoor public escalator for residents of a poor area.

“It turned out very well,” Medellin Mayor Alonso Salazar said, adding that he has not heard of any such projects elsewhere in this world.

Salazar said officials from Rio de Janeiro plan to visit Medellin to see if such an escalator would work in that city’s favelas, which also cling precariously to hillsides.

Comuna 13 residents came out to celebrate and study the US$6.7 million escalator, which officials say will shorten the 35-minute hike on foot up the hillside to six minutes. Use of the escalator is free.

“This is a dream come true,” homemaker Olga Holguin told RCN television.

Cesar Hernandez, head of projects for Medellin, said the electric stairway is divided into six sections and has a length of 384m. An escalator goes up and a second goes down. Authorities plan to build a covering for inclement weather.

Salazar described Comuna 13 as the city’s district that has “suffered the greatest urban violence ... but lately this has been receding and we hope this social package will help it move forward.”

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