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The Nowhen Bridge to Nowhere | La Tribuna, Santos

Ferryboat, Ilhabela-São Sebastião

A Tribuna files a curmudgeonly editorial on a not atypical Brazilian experience. People will cite the title of the famous paean to Brasil by Stefan Zweig, Brazil: Nation of the Future, and .find all sorts of irony in it

Taking the advice of a virtual colleague, I try to read more of the regional press. Under subsidies put in place by Lula I and II, small and midsize newspapers are going through a fascinating phase. A “glocal” mode of journalism is being introduced to the countless Pasadenas of Brazil — small cities with populations up to 100,000.

The example I like to cite is the lady in the queue with me reading two papers, neither one of them one of the competing metro dailies– the free Destak and Brasil de Fato.

Our editorialist provides us with a very nice lead on the theme of time passing — — “dictators like Pinochet and Saddam have risen, fallen and died” — to dramatize plans for a Santos-Guarujá bridge that have been in the works since 1970.

Since Santos is actually a place I might consider living someday — if it did not frighten me so much — I translate the gist of the editorial complaint and mark it one our personal Sambodian geolocation map.

Note to self: Also add Old Downtown Recife and Ouro Preto.

During all this time, the bridge, which was not a new idea even in 1970, remained as it ever was: a figment of the popular imagination. It would have been the world’s largest bridge in terms of traffic volume,handling 28,000 vehicles a day — not a meaningful world record, to tell the truth, but something..

The record delays have flowed from government inaction, which even in the face of such enormous demand cannot manage a short, dry traffic connection between the two principal cities of the Baixada Santista. Only those who depend on the ferry system to get to work and return home everyday can really tell you how irritating it is to wait sometimes 10 or 20 minutes to board a ferry to take you to the mainland. You will often have to suffer a half-hour delay  upon debarking should one of the ferries conk out, as they often do. Inevitably, it will be raining like the dickens at the time..

And so it was thaat José Serra, 2007-2010, during the PSDB’s 15th year running the richest state in Brazil, announced that it was withdrawing plans for a tunnel (seen as an ideal solution at the time) and relaunching plans for a bridge. Serra had the gall to unveil, with all the pomp and ceremony of a ribbon-cutting,  a tiny scale model of the project, one year later, the 16th of the São Paulo reign. He promised a toll-free crossing, as is currently the case with the ferries.

After revealing plans for the bridge – scheduled to break ground in late 2010 – the governor filed them in the deepest, darkest drawer in the  Bandeirantes Palace, at the beginning of this year, for lack of funding, leaving it up to  Paulo Alexandre Barbosa, a former PSDB state lawmaker who served as head cheerleaderfor the project all these years, and currently serving as state social development secretary, to try to beat out the flames.

Some say the failure to deliver is just the result of another cynical campaign promise, in this case by last year’s presidential campaign. . Others blame the conflict between Serra and his sucessor, current governor  Geraldo Alckmin, who belong to different PSDBs.

Together with  Saulo de Castro Abreu Filho, state secretary of transportation, o Paulo Alexandre of Santos, has tried to smooth over the episode promising a meeting today at which the bridge will be one of the main items on the agenda.We should know soon what fruit those discussions bore.What will be hard to know is is when the suffering of the citizens of Santos and Guaruja, the main victims, will finally be over.  .