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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Plan to extend Urban Train to Convention Center District draws criticism

A local urban architect said greater need exists for an Urban Train line to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Carolina and to Caguas, to name two places.

By The Star Staff

A local architect says the Integrated Transport Authority’s (ATI) plans to extend the Urban Train (Tren Urbano) to the T-Mobile District in Santurce is not such a good idea.

The ATI said this week that it may extend the train or establish a system of rapid buses to the T-Mobile District.

However, Pedro Cardona Roig, an architect, emphasized the need for such transport in other areas of Santurce, as well as Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and Caguas.

“You have to extend the train, you have to take it to Santurce, and then you have to take it to the airport [Luis Muñoz Marín] and you have to take it to Caguas […]. And then you have to take it to Toa Baja,” the architect said in a radio interview. “There is an availability of funds. And even if it was fully federally funded, you don’t make an investment like this down a route where no one lives.”

Cardona Roig was critical of the first expansion of the train system being to the Convention Center/T-Mobile District, arguing that the move is aimed at pleasing the district’s investors.

He said the government is using the same optics it used when it built the Urban Train in the 1990s, which has resulted in a money-losing venture.

“What has been talked about, and it is a bit strange, is that this train is being contemplated with the same optics as the first phase, which is to take it to a destination. In this case, to favor the investors of the T-Mobile District and the Convention Center area, and that is not a good line of thought,” Cardona Roig said.

“The population of Puerto Rico has aged, has less income,” the urban architect pointed out. “Investing in public transportation is what must be done also to address climate change, and what is projected in terms of pollution […], and also to give more comfort and happiness to the citizens. I believe that making the city accessible so that people can get to work without taking their car out is essential.”

The Puerto Rico Integrated Transportation Authority (PRITA/ATI) is conducting the Tren Urbano Extension Alternatives Analysis to assess the feasibility of an approximate two-mile extension of the Urban Train in San Juan from the Sagrado Corazon station (the current north end of the line) to the Convention Center District and its alternative routings.

“We will work to engage the broader San Juan community in this effort, which will culminate with the identification of an alternative that best supports local mobility needs and other goals,” ATI said on its web page.

“The desired outcome from this effort will assess different transit alignments, identify one locally preferred alternative, and will generate the supporting documentation that would be appropriate for federal funding program(s) submission,” the agency said.

The public, in social media networks, is already calling for extensions to Carolina, Caguas and even the construction of a station at Plaza las Américas in Hato Rey. “What about the east?” a Twitter user identified as Pedro Juan asked, noting that transportation is needed to Humacao, Fajardo and other eastern towns.

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