NEWS

MARATHONOS AVENUE

Greek commuters have been running their own marathon along the historic course over the past two years as roadwork, exacerbated by illegal parking alongside it, has slowed traffic to a crawl throughout the day. The first teams moved in in 2002, when the firms European Technical and Olympic Hellas started work on what was to be a modern main road. The road surface was laid for the marathon test event in August 2003, after which the new section began to collapse. A few months later, the European Technical site was deserted, as unpaid laborers and contractors went on strike. European Technical was forced to pull out in early February and, just a few days before handing over to Giorgos Souflias, outgoing public works and environment minister Vasso Papandreou announced a new competition, won by J&P Avax. Now the project will cost a great deal more, but it should be finished within the 110 days stipulated since it was assigned, in early July. For those who use the road, it is a daily nightmare. Sections already widened are inundated with parked cars. Most of the stores in the area are alongside the road, but no one seems to want to park in the side streets. The traffic police have washed their hands of the situation, although they continue to hand out parking tickets by the dozen. Between Pallini and Mesogeion Avenue, more than 25,000 parking tickets have been issued, 8,000 license plates removed and 3,000 cars towed away. Surprisingly, most of the fines are paid the same day, so drivers can get back their license plates and commit the same offense, or worse, the next day.