after 8 years of work and controversy, the New Coastal Road is finally open… only partially

The New Coastal Road is located a few dozen meters from the old one. RICHARD BOUHET / AFP

Faced with delays and unforeseen events, the region opted for a partial and one-way opening of work.

With all these delays we never saw the end of it», For many islanders, like Vincent, a 28-year-old from Reunion, the opening of the New Coastal Road is synonymous with Arlesian. This project, a viaduct that runs along the sides a few tens of meters from the coast, should make it possible to relieve the congestion of the historic axis of the road, without absorbing the constant increase and dangerous traffic because it is located on the side of a cliff.

This titanic project, which was launched in 2015 for an initial delivery date set for 2020-2021, has experienced many failures, increased costs and delays (probably not yet completed). However, the site has recently gone through a decisive phase as a section opens to traffic from this Sunday August 28 at 12 noon. Currently, only the first part, from Saint-Denis to the area of ​​Grande Chaloupe, is put into service. A part that represents 8 km from the total 12.5 km of this road that, in the long term, may be possible to go to Possession. In addition, the opening is only in the North-West direction (from Saint-Denis to Grande Chaloupe). Oncoming vehicles will continue to use the old cliff side road.

The titanic project started in 2015 and the amount of work initially planned was 1.6 billion euros. RICHARD BOUHET / AFP

This partial opening was decided by the Region after another delay. The issue: stone supplies. If the first section is a viaduct, the few remaining kilometers of the first form a dyke. A project that is strongly opposed by environmentalists because of the amount of resources needed for its construction and which requires the construction of new quarries on the island. Challenged in court, these openings were eventually banned by the judges.

The general opening is planned for 2028

Finally, the second part will also be a viaduct, the value of which is estimated at 840 million euros, financed equally by the State and the region. An additional cost for a project was initially planned at 1.6 billion and that should exceed two billion. It represents nearly 160 million per km, 20 to 30 times more expensive than a motorway, and ranks it among the most expensive axes in the world. A value share justified by the unique characteristics of the site. “This being the longest job ever done at sea, it was somewhat inevitable that difficulties would arise“, lined up a design stakeholder who wished to remain anonymous. In addition, “this infrastructure must cope with the problems of swell, cyclonic winds and seabed protection“, added our source.

The viaduct must withstand extreme weather. Richard BOUHET / AFP

While some Reunions criticized this project because of the ecological (seabed construction) and financial costs, its interest cannot be denied. The current 2×2 lane road is struggling to absorb the 60,000 vehicles that use it every day, a continuous growth. In addition, its position close to sea level forces frequent closures in case of strong swells. But above all, its danger is pointed out. Located on the side of a cliff, the paths are sometimes cut by falling rocks despite the installation of safety nets. The protections are not always enough, like on March 24, 2006 when 30,000 cubic meters of rock killed three people.

Currently, Reunions going to Saint-Denis will continue to travel along the old road on the side of the cliff for a month, before moving to the sea side. However, the total closure of the old road will not for tomorrow: l The full opening of the 12.5 km track in both directions is not expected before 2028, at best.

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