Glorious Summer Games are to follow a winter of building discontent

A work site covering a length of 250 kilometers (155 miles) is what 550 roads and 150 sidewalks in Athens are set to become for the next six months, at least. In roads, squares and buildings, the battle will be fought to smarten up the capital city by the time of the Olympic Games in August and render the life of its inhabitants that much easier. But until then, as Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni warns, «we will have a difficult winter.» That’s probably putting it mildly. Apart from the dozens of Ministry of Planning and Public Works (YPEHODE) work sites littering the city, another 40 contractors have begun – or are scheduled to begin – their projects. These projects consist of an extensive scheme to resurface roads, replace sidewalks, improve access, pedestrianize streets and renovate squares. The contractors for 550 roads in Athens’s seven divisions, plus 150 sidewalks, have already been selected. Half the projects began in mid-November and the rest will begin in the next few days. The total budget comes to 50 million euros, with the municipality of Athens forking out 52 percent, and the State making up the remaining 48 percent. The aim of these works is to improve road functioning in both the center and the districts of the municipality of Athens, as well as to form a more user-friendly road network for both the denizens of and visitors to the capital. Ease of access to the sidewalks and roads of Athens is a priority. All of the sidewalks that are being done over will have a separate corridor with special paving stones to guide the blind, while special ramps are to be built for the disabled. Having sidewalks that enable the blind to move around freely and safely is regarded as a pioneering project. These special corridors will be of four different types, according to their use (e.g. a straight parallel line on the paving stones means no obstacle, while sparsely studded ones mean that they stand at a crossroads, and those densely scored with parallel lines mean there are services nearby, such as a telephone booth or kiosk). Blind people will easily be able to feel their way on the paving stones, either by taps of a cane, or through the soles of their feet. According to the municipality’s program of improvements, eight roads in Athens, including Omirou Street, will be turned into thoroughfares with speed restrictions. Twelve more roads will also see alterations. The roads Essentially, a pilot program will make improvements to roads – including aesthetic ones – involving teams of architects, engineers, environmentalists and other specialists. Changes will be made to sidewalks, lighting, greenery and sign-posting. New parking spaces will be created, more garbage bins and bus stops placed, and benches and ramps added to serve people with special needs. Pilot work is to be carried out on Anapafseos, Eftychidou-Chromenidou, Omirou, Lykavittou, Vassileiou tou Megalou, Stournari, Kerameon, Gyzi, Philadelphias, Tripoleos and Aghias Zonis streets, budgeted at 3.5 million euros. As Deputy Mayor Chronis Akritidis pointed out to Kathimerini, special emphasis will be laid on the unique aesthetics of each road, in accordance with the peculiarities of the district in which it lies. For example, on the sidewalks of Stournari Street, the space in front of the stores will have signposts in one shade, which will change color in front of the NTUA building, while small exhibition areas will be sign-posted in yet another hue. Most of the works will have been finished by this April. All of them are included in the municipality’s Technical Program, which was passed at the end of December 2003 by the municipal council and is budgeted at 122,686,000 euros. By the time of the Olympic Games, the municipality of Athens is hoping to have created a cycle lane on Tritis Septemvriou Street, which is to be connected in the future with a network of cycle lanes joining Athens with Piraeus.

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