The Government exhibits investment muscle in Catalonia after criticism for low budget execution
The Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, this Friday at a ceremony in Esplugues de Llobregat.
The Minister of Transport, Raquel Sánchez, this Friday at a ceremony in Esplugues de Llobregat.Quique Garcia (EFE)

The Fourth Belt, the high-capacity road that Barcelona must circumvent passing through Sabadell and Terrassa, is the infrastructure of the controversy. And this Friday it was again on account of the decision of the Generalitat not to attend an act announcing the agreement on a new section of this eternal work and in which the Minister of Transport and Mobility, Raquel Sánchez, also participated. . The Government argues that what should be a work meeting “was going to become an act of reaffirmation of the ministry.” The mayors of both cities and the minister made the plan ugly for the Generalitat, in which the ministry took the opportunity to announce specific actions on the AP-7 to improve the problem of the permanent collapse that this road has experienced since the tolls were lifted. Despite the sudden absence of those responsible for the Department of Territory, in the hands of Junts, Esquerra issued a harsh statement against its government partners. He pointed out that projects such as the Fourth Belt are “outdated mobility models” and typical of a “sociovergent” order of priorities.

This Friday’s visit to Vallès was not a comfortable appointment for the ministry, after figures from the Treasury revealed that last year the Government only invested 36% of what was budgeted in Catalonia. Nor after months with retention problems on the AP-7 that reflect the collapse of the highway, especially since the abolition of tolls. In this context, the ministry took advantage of an act in which an agreement was presented on the extension of the Fourth Beltway, in the Sabadell-Terrassa section, to announce a package of actions valued at 78 million that should help decongest the motorway as it passes through the Valles.

Specifically, these are six specific interventions: modification of the layout and accesses on the B-30 at the height of Cerdanyola del Vallès (22 million); creation of a direct access from the C-58 to the AP-7 towards Tarragona (eight million); improvement of the connection between the AP-7, the C-58 and the N-150 (five million) and the AP-7 with the C60 (nine million); modification of the access to the Santiga industrial estate on the AP-7 (four million) and the construction of a third lane in the Montmeló-Mollet section heading south, and improvement of the connection with the C-17 (30 million). The ministry plans to put out to tender the construction projects of all these actions during this 2022. “These are improvements and microsurgery actions, of rapid application and with a simpler administrative procedure”, defended Xavier Flores, Secretary General of Infrastructures.

Hours earlier, Flores also announced in Tarragona the construction of a third lane between L’Hospitalet de l’Infant and Amposta, a stretch of just over 50 kilometers that currently only has two lanes in each direction. Despite the fact that the volume of traffic in that area does not register the levels of congestion suffered by the Barcelona conurbation, the third lane stands out as a necessary work due to the increase in users, given that the AP-7 in Terres de l ‘Ebre is a corridor to the south of the Peninsula. In addition, in that area, the only alternative to the AP-7 is the N-340, an ailing route with ditches full of flower bouquets due to its long history of accidents. Between Tarragona and the Vandellòs nuclear power plant, the A-7 motorway runs parallel to the AP-7. The ministry also plans to improve the links between the motorway and the dual carriageway, with the aim of benefiting mobility.

Two months ago, the ministry also announced the construction of a fourth lane between El Vendrell and El Papiol, a section of about 50 kilometers that registers an average daily intensity of 100,000 vehicles. The works will cost 200 million euros and it is expected that they can be put out to tender this year so that they are completed in 2025.

The minister admitted the investment deficit and that it is necessary to “put on the accelerator” to recover the figures, but she also wanted to put these investments in the AP-7 as an example that she is trying to reverse the situation.

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Sit-in of the Generalitat

The controversy of the day was led by the Generalitat, which planned to attend the event, together with the minister, held at the Vallès Occidental County Council to present an agreement on the extension of the Fourth Belt. Photography was not comfortable for the Government either, after the conflict over investments and the fact that ERC has always been against this infrastructure. The president Pere Aragonès referred to it first thing in the morning: “The repeated breach of recent years, with absolutely inexplicable figures, is unjustifiable.” The Department of Territory defends that the principle of agreement with the ministry for a new section of the Fourth Belt is good, because it leaves it up to the Catalan administration to define the route, while it is the Government that pays for the work. However, Ricard Font, secretary general of the Vice Presidency and Territory, chose not to attend the event with the minister. “We will not participate in this staging,” they justified from the Vice Presidency. Both the minister and the mayors of Sabadell and Terrassa criticized the gesture, calling it “lack of respect” and “contempt”.

The fuss of Junts with the minister did not temper the tension that exists within the Government at the expense of the Fourth Belt. “We cannot pretend to solve urban and inter-regional problems with high-speed roads,” Esquerra said in a statement. The text recovers the references to sociovergence, a direct dart to the identity pride of Junts. To criticize the Fourth Belt outlined between PSOE and Junts, ERC delved into a wound that continues to bleed despite the passing of the months: the expansion of the Barcelona-El Prat airport. It is pointed out that both infrastructures are “erroneous approaches, without territorial consensus” and that they try to be imposed “in a covert manner”.

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