Recently, Cali’s mayor Rodrigo Guerrero inaugurated the longest urban tunnel in Colombia, whose main goal is to solve traffic jams in a vast zone of its city center.

The Avenida Colombia tunnel is just the beginning of a long-overdue transformation that this Colombian city needed. Like the Bostonian “Big Dig,” it was a project full of controversy and delays, but at last this new symbol of the city’s renaissance is open.

Entrance to the new Urban Tunnel, Avenida Colombia tunnel in Cali Colombia

The almost three million caleños are still amazed by the extent and quality of the intervention, almost a whole avenue, buried in a one-kilometer-long tunnel in which, according to Cali’s transportation engineers, 5,000 vehicles per hour can pass.

The tunnel also has state-of-the-art security elements, like noise cancelling screens, acoustic walls and gas detectors and extractors. However, what is really interesting about this project is that it doesn’t come from a narrow car-oriented urban planning approach.

New Urban Tunnel, Avenida Colombia tunnel in Cali Colombia

Over the tunnel, adjacent to Cali’s downtown, the largest urban boulevard of the region was built, with 12,000 square meters of prime urban spaces, good urban design and furniture, interaction with the beautiful trees of the city and stations of the new Bus Rapid Transit system.

This boulevard fulfils the main purpose of the tunnel project:

  1. Keeping cars away from the newly pedestrianized downtown;
  2. Providing space to the new Bus Rapid Transit system; and
  3. Creating a new urban space which brings the city’s downtown back to life.

It was made clear by the city’s administration that this project was to change the face of the city, giving the importance and the focus of urban intervention towards the public space, ‘public space is the solution’ states the project’s memory and in an otherwise car oriented development, the focus was made on the beauty of the city.

A large promenade facing the Cali river, with tropical palms and trees add to the setting, along with urban furniture ‘mobiliario urbano’ by local industrial designers. The unique use of copper, utilized by panels and sculptures, presents an organic setting imbued with the colours that are typical of the area, a combination of tropical green with the ferousity of the ground.

New Urban Tunnel, Avenida Colombia tunnel in Cali Colombia

The project now rises as a symbol of pride for this Colombian city, and even if it may not be as impressive as urban tunnels in the United States, Europe or Asia, it does have a unique approach for the really necessary ‘coexistence’ between public transit, pedestrians, and car-oriented urban planning.

Do you think this is the correct approach? Or is it time to start removing cars from our cities once and for all?

Credits: Images by Luis Lozano-Paredes. Data linked to sources.