Adios and good riddance
The Duarte Corridor road system will cut down on traffic jams in downtown Santo Domingo
written by: Humberto Werneck
photos by: Holanda Cavalcanti
This USD 204-million project, including USD 100 million from Brazil’s National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), involves the construction of six overpasses and three tunnels. Ground was broken in July 2009, and the first two overpasses will be delivered by May. According to Daniel, that alone will shave 30 minutes off his nightmare commute. “When the entire project is finished by the end of next year, motorists will be able to get from the airport to the city center – a 30-km trip – almost without a single stop light,” says Project Director Luiz Sérgio Ferraz da Costa.
Odebrecht’s first project in the capital of the Dominican Republic, where it has been present since 2002, the Duarte Corridor is also the first public works contract the company has won in that country through an international public tender. It runs from East to West, and consists of two routes: Kennedy Avenue, for traffic coming in from Santiago, the country’s second-largest city, which will get four new overpasses; and 27 de Febrero Avenue, where two 500-meter overpasses will be built.
Building urban roadworks of this magnitude in an area traveled by 200,000 vehicles per day involves major challenges. To surmount them, the joint-venture contractor led by Odebrecht has adopted procedures never before seen in that country. It hired a traffic consulting firm, Tectran, from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and mobilized an information campaign. In addition to publishing ads, the company sent teams out into the streets to answer questions, hand out fliers and engage the public in dialog, since the local community was naturally concerned about how the roadworks would affect their daily lives. Signs and signaling have also been installed to guide motorists while the works are in progress.
It is working like a charm. “Traffic is better organized in the vicinity of the roadworks than in other parts of the city,” observes Manuel Estrella, the owner of the construction firm that bears his name, which was a concrete supplier for the company before it became an Odebrecht partner. “I’m learning a lot,” says Estrella, who says his first surprise was the amount of time his Brazilian colleagues devoted to planning the project. One of his younger co-workers, engineer Victor Collado, 25, the officer Responsible for the Production Program for the Duarte Corridor project, announces: “One of my goals is to encapsulate Odebrecht’s culture and work philosophy and take them to Estrella.” Victor Díaz Rúa, the Minister of Public Works and Communications, whose ministry is the client for this project, notes: “The thing that makes Odebrecht an admired company in the Dominican Republic is quality, not just in construction but in how the project is handled. It is characterized by high standards of organization and safety.”
Marcos Machado, the Project Director responsible for winning the tender and mobilizing the project, says that for Odebrecht the challenge it faced in the Duarte Corridor project was more about image than technology. The company is involved in other initiatives that are also helping burnish Odebrecht’s public image, such as restoring part of the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center, built for the 2003 Pan-American Games. An agreement between the Public Works and Sports ministries has made it possible for the joint venture to set up its campsite in a small part of the center’s grounds. In return, the contractor will restore 14 basketball and indoor soccer courts, as well as a baseball diamond in the area. “We have already delivered four,” observes Odebrecht’s Humberto Sampaio, the Administration and Finance Manager. The company has also refurbished the Military Security Department’s barracks, which stand next door to the playing courts.
Cláudio Medeiros, the officer Responsible for the Administrative-Financial Program on CEO Marco Cruz’s team is running the program that provides professional education and job skills to local workers. Since 2005, the company has been prospecting with a fine sieve for young professionals, including engineer Jensson Nina, the officer Responsible for Production, who was one of the first to join Odebrecht through the Young Partners program. “Here you are encouraged to gain the independence and autonomy to make decisions,” says Jensson.
Odebrecht currently has 52 Young Partners in the country (seven of whom are working on the Duarte Corridor), all of whom are Dominicans. Engineer Analie García Pena, 22, is working in the Planning area of the Duarte Corridor project. In her assessment, “At this company, our colleagues are interested in sharing knowledge.” During the most recent selection process, begun in October 2009, the company chose 327 candidates for the program and may hire 21 of them. “The selection process is the seed we are planting, and soon we will harvest the fruits,” says Cláudio Medeiros, who is clearly enthusiastic about the prospects.