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Lao Si Io won’t rule out further increase in LRT spending

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Construction works for the first Light Rapid Transit route in downtown Taipa started yesterday amid a festive groundbreaking ceremony and Lao Si Io, Secretary for Transport and Public Works did not rule out a possible further increase in the spending for the MOP 11 billion project.
As with other major construction projects, LRT budget issues have been a major concern. Lao was asked about the subject again after the ceremony.
“At this stage, the spending (of the Taipa section) is still within out budget that we previously announced,” Lao said, adding that “of course, if there is any changes in the way ahead, we’ll let the public know immediately.”
But he did not speculate on the possible figures of further growth in the budget, only adding that “there’ll be all kinds of difficulties ahead, but we’ll handle them in accordance with the principle that the public’s interests come first, and the concerns of all parties will be duly addressed.”
The authority has been under criticism over the ever-increasing LRT budget.  
The initial Light Rail Transit budget was less than MOP 4.2 billion in 2007 but then increased to MOP 7.5 billion in 2009. After the adjudication of the rolling stock and system contract to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and revision of construction work estimates, the forecast has risen to MOP 8.7 billion early last year, not including the MOP 263.2 million in work already adjudicated. The figure further swelled to MOP 11 billion last June prompting the Commission of Audit to release a report slamming the authority over the “ballooning” budget.
The ever-surging spending also prompted lawmakers Au Kam San and José Pereira Coutinho to ask the authority whether or not the newest MOP 11 billion budget for phase one of the LRT would really be the “ultimate figure”, suggesting that the costs would most likely far exceed this estimation.
The 1.9-kilometre project launched yesterday, which will include five stations – Ocean Gardens, Macau Jockey Club, Macau Stadium and one between the old Taipa village and the Galaxy Macau resort –, will cost MOP 489 million, according to statistics from the Transportation Infrastructure Office (GIT). This was the cheapest of the 16 bids in the international public tender for the construction, which is expected to finish around May 2015.

Lao stressed yesterday that the LRT system would not only alleviate traffic congestion in Macau, but also improve the city’s economic integration with neighboring regions. However, he also admitted that there would be negative impacts on the areas along the construction sites.
According to GIT, traffic on Sai Van bridge’s Taipa exit will be reduced to two lanes each way. Later on, the road connecting the bridge to Cotai –’Rua dos Jogos da Ásia Oriental’– will also lose one lane each way. Construction works on the road near the Jockey Club – ‘Estrada Governador Albano de Oliveira’ – will slice down the number of parking spaces available.
Lao called for the public’s tolerance and promised to minimise the negative effects, which also include noise and air pollution besides traffic realignments. GIT will put more road signs in the affected areas and contractors will have to spray the air to reduce air pollution and measure noise. Lao also disclosed that complaint stations would be set up in various areas to respond to issues raised by local residents.
The open tender for the LRT route in the Macau peninsula will be launched during the first half of this year and the construction works will start before the end of 2012.

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