The ultimate in road widening has to be Avenida 9 de Julio (Argentina’s Independence Day) – often stated to be the widest avenue in the world. (Is that true? Anyone?)
It runs for a kilometre between two railway stations – the original rationale for its expansion in 1912. But the history of public works and private companies is a particularly messy one in Buenos Aires, and nothing happened for decades.
When a determined mayor was able to get a big-buck bond bill through city council during the world-wide Depression, the basic construction project of five blocks and a new plaza took only three months or so in 1937. But by then the proposal had gone from 33 metres wide to 100 (it would relieve congestion!) – though the complete right-of-way, building to building, seems to be closer to 140 meters. That meant taking out literally blocks of buildings without a lot of notice, and the cost, well over estimate, had a ruinous impact on the city budget.
I didn’t expect to like it one whit. I expected it would be hostile, difficult to cross on foot and altogether unpleasant. But, as it turned out, not so much.
The avenue is broken into about nine or ten different sections, from sidewalk to median to busway, and like elsewhere in BA it’s heavily treed and, in parts, very pleasant.
Best of all, though, is the recently installed rapidbus corridor in the centre, removing at least four lanes of car traffic and outfitted with a well-designed series of stations and platforms that also allow pedestrians to walk comfortably down the centre of the avenida.
Oh, that big white building with the radio tower and a shilouette of, yes, Eva Peron – it’s the Ministry of Health building, too big to tear down when the avenue was being extended in the 1960s.
There are two silhouettes in this art piece by Marmo installed in 2011 for her 50th anniversary. The one in the second image from the top is Peron in a passionate speech (haranguing, it’s said, the city’s wealthy oligarchs in Barrio Norte.) While facing south, Evita is smiling down on the city’s poor.