More roads, the solution to reduce the eternal problem of traffic jams in Tenerife

A new highway of 380 million euros is the solution that the administrations have found for the eternal traffic jams that occur in Tenerife. This six-kilometre, six-lane motorway, three in each direction, which is to be built between the Los Rodeos and Anchieta areas, has been presented as one of the most important road works planned in the Canary Islands, both in terms of cost and volume of vehicles that it will absorb and that it will take out of the urban center of La Laguna, where heavy traffic jams occur during peak hours. The project, known as a variant of the TF-5, is still in the public exhibition phase, but experts and environmentalists are already warning that building more infrastructure encourages private vehicles and pushes progress in the opposite direction to sustainable mobility.

"The La Laguna bypass is a major brand nonsense"according to the group No incineration Tenerife

“The La Laguna bypass is a major brand nonsense”, according to the group No incineration Tenerife

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When the Island Council presented the project for the first time in 2020, the cost of the work was 130 million euros. However, the investment handled in the current studies amounts to 380 million euros. The president of the island corporation, Pedro Martín, assured that this work is the “definitive solution” to the “very serious problem” of the traffic jams that have become chronic in Tenerife, especially in the section of the northern motorway. Martín also defended this alternative as the most “respectful” with the environment, since 75% of the road will be buried.

The proposal to build most of the work under the territory comes from the City Council of La Laguna. The Councilor for Town Planning, Santiago Pérez, explained to this newspaper that the Management technicians are giving priority to studying this project. “We are going to issue our criteria and we are going to try to enforce it by all possible means.” “I have been proposing this for years, because it contributes to solving a very serious mobility problem and allows La Laguna to fulfill its desire to turn that stretch of motorway into a boulevard and not a dam. Therefore, the growth of the city will be projected”, points out the mayor.

On the contrary, the environmental group No Incineration Tenerife has called the project a “major brand nonsense” that will mean a 20-year delay in the objective of changing the mobility paradigm of the island”. According to the collective, private transport in Tenerife is close to one car per inhabitant. A “crazy” proportion on an island with some 928,604 registered people.

The study Increasing Highway Capacity Unlikely to Relieve Traffic Congestion, elaborated by the researcher Susan Handy, concludes that “traffic congestion has traditionally been addressed by adding additional road capacity with the construction of new roads or adding lanes to existing ones. Numerous studies show that adding capacity to highways fails to relieve congestion for long, because it actually increases vehicle miles traveled.”

The Municipality of Tacoronte, a northern municipality that adjoins the variant, is also positioned along this line. “Creating a new road saves La Laguna, but it does not solve the traffic density of 100,000 vehicles a day that Tacoronte receives. The residents of the north are going to continue to have the condemnation of these eternal queues that began 30 years ago, ”says the mayor, José Daniel Díaz Armas (Nueva Canarias).

The municipal corporation is also concerned that this new infrastructure will damage an area of ​​protected tree species and the projects that they had planned to create a bike lane and pavement for the general highway. The mayor of Tacoronte also warns that the cost of the project will increase to 500 million euros due to the rise in the price of raw materials. “It’s a millionaire investment that will be useless,” he asserts. For him, the solution lies in promoting public transport and creating a BUS-HOV lane. “It would not destroy more land and absorb those vehicles occupied by only one person, which are the majority.”

The project, which is already subject to public exhibition, proposes that the work have a maximum execution period of four years and six months. In addition, it includes an environmental impact study since the infrastructure affects an area declared important for birds by the SEO/BirdLife Network. The space also reaches a traditional agricultural area, a residential area, scattered houses, traditional places for hunting quail, turtledoves and pigeons and includes the Los Rodeos airport.

From Aena they explain that the public company has coordinated with the Government of the Canary Islands to prevent the route from affecting airport easements. For their part, sources from the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Housing insist that the work will be buried in order to preserve the air easement and surrounding farms or homes and thus meet the environmental objectives set out in the project. Among them is the preservation of the natural resources of the metropolitan area, of the areas of greatest agricultural value in the Los Rodeos area and avoiding the destruction of habitats of special interest, among others.

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The tenured professor of Human Geography at the University of La Laguna José León explains that it is “doubtful” that this infrastructure will solve the problem of traffic jams that occur on the TF-5. “The real problem is the huge amount of traffic heading into the metropolitan area, and that is not going to be prevented by the highway.”

León also points to the distribution of the population and productive economic activities, which are concentrated between Santa Cruz de Tenerife and La Laguna. “We are prisoners of the model of territorial occupation that we have made, which has taken advantage of the decline in agriculture to convert part of the agricultural plots into lots. We have occupied a good part of the rural space with buildings, but this presents enormous mobility problems because you have to move for everything”, specifies the teacher.

“The question is not what should be done to reduce traffic jams, but rather to reduce the number of cars there are”, proposes Fran Castro, a member of Ben Magec – Ecologists in Action. For the environmental group, the only way that people do not choose the private vehicle over the public is that the latter is “punctual, reliable and comfortable”. “If those 300 million euros in roads were invested in public transport, it would improve infinitely.”

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