The Colombian justice system has suspended the bidding for the creation of the so-called “Corredor Verde,” the comprehensive transformation of Carrera Septima in Bogota. The project, initiated during the administration of Enrique Peñalosa (2016-2019), was scheduled to commence in the first semester of 2024, with an expected completion date in the year 2026.
The reform aimed to completely revamp one of the main roads in the capital to favor public transportation, dedicated bicycle lanes, and green spaces. The primary objective was to alleviate the perpetual traffic congestion, especially during peak hours, notably in the afternoons.
However, the 35th Administrative Judge of Bogota ruled in favor of two citizens who filed a lawsuit against the project in September.
The Popular Lawsuit
This popular lawsuit is grounded in the alleged threat to “collective rights to administrative morality, public heritage, the enjoyment of public space, and the use and defense of public assets.”
One pivotal aspect of the popular action is the absence of the necessary studies and designs for the project’s construction. The plaintiffs argue that the three consultancies hired for this purpose have failed to deliver their products, most of which lack approval from both oversight authorities and public utility companies.
Therefore, the claimants contend that the Corredor Verde project is essentially identical to the initial Transmilenio por la Septima project, another project previously halted by the judiciary, which aimed to convert the road into a new trunk line for the mass public transport system.
Reasons for the Suspension
In its decision, the judge “orders the precautionary measure requested by Mr. Diego Escallón Arango and Mr. Juan Esteban Matallana (…) until the Corredor Verde project on Carrera Septima is adjusted, and the construction of trunk lines for the implementation of a mass public transportation system is removed from its design.”
Thus, the judicial ruling instructs “the Mayor’s Office of Bogota D.C. and the Urban Development Institute (IDU) to suspend Bidding Process No. IDU-LP-DG-003-2023.” This decision by the judge denied the request for a precautionary measure regarding the decree that authorized the Corredor Verde bidding and also noted that the decision must be included in the record that will be opened regarding the case..
Consequently, the final decision now rests with the Administrative Tribunal of Cundinamarca, which will have to confirm or annul the decision of the Bogota tribunal that has halted the project.
The Corredor Verde
The rapid growth of Bogota and increased mobility have led to traffic congestion and air pollution. To address these issues, an ambitious project known as the Corredor Verde of Carrera Septima has been implemented. This project, which aims to transform one of the city’s main arteries, is rooted in the need to improve the quality of life for Bogota residents and promote urban sustainability.
The origins of the Corredor Verde project date back to the second term of Enrique Peñalosa’s mayoralty. The project proposes the creation of a green corridor along Carrera Séptima, one of Bogota’s most iconic avenues. This corridor is designed to promote active mobility, such as walking and cycling, while improving accessibility for people with reduced mobility. Additionally, the project is expected to reduce air pollution and enhance the quality of the urban environment.
The corridor’s design includes dedicated bicycle lanes, spacious sidewalks, and green areas. The architecture and urban furniture have been designed with the comfort of pedestrians and cyclists in mind. Sustainable lighting and universal accessibility have also been taken into account.
One of the first individuals to react was the current mayor of Bogota, Claudia Lopez. The mayor had committed not to construct Transmilenio on Carrera Septima but also agreed to respect the project of her predecessor, Enrique Peñalosa, and leave the technical studies completed and the bidding process ready to begin the following year.
In her initial response, Lopez lamented that due to the judicial ruling, the city would lose “COP 79 billion,” which had been invested in technical studies. Additionally, the mayor took the opportunity to criticize the political group, the New Liberalism, to which the plaintiffs apparently belong. It’s worth noting that the likely successor to Lopez, future mayor Carlos Galan, is a leader of this political party. The local elections on October 29 will determine who governs the capital from January 2024.
“If two New Liberalism candidates hadn’t managed to stop the Corredor Verde […] with a legal action, we would all have a new Séptima in 2026 with sidewalks, bike lanes, greenery, and exclusive lanes for electric buses,” Claudia Lopez wrote on her social media.
Another reaction came from Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor who promoted the Corredor Verde during his term. “Now it turns out that a judge decides how mobility is organized in the city. Arrogant as well as ignorant,” wrote the politician in his initial comments on social media.
Hours later, the former mayor reiterated his arguments about the matter. “The judge who prohibited TransMilenio (TM) on Seventh doesn’t understand that buses are still needed; TM is the way to organize them that provides the highest speed, capacity, lowest energy consumption, the fewest number of buses, and frees up the most space for cars,” Peñalosa argued, in a strongly worded criticism of the judicial decision.