The attempt of the Madrid City Council to improve the firm of the central Arenal street cracks only one month after the end of its works. Thousands of small holes have begun to appear on the new paving, made up of a derivative of granite, in all its sections, as a result of the detachment of the small pebbles from which it is formed. The faults in the ground are still barely a centimeter in diameter, although larger parts of the ground are already beginning to rise in some places.
Calle Arenal, Almeida’s work that generates the most controversy in Madrid: “Yes, it’s uglier, but it’s going to last”
The Almeida Works area spent one million euros on the renovation of this street. He did it to achieve “greater durability” against the damages that originated in the old colored granite tiles that adorned this road since 2008, when the mayor of that time, Ruiz Gallardón, pedestrianized the entire Arenal street, from Sol to the plaza of Opera. The new corporation prioritized this area over other roads in the Central district and replaced the slabs with micro-agglomerate with granite aggregate in the central strips and at intersections. “The objective is to improve the maintenance of these pavements that are not very suitable for the passage of loading and unloading vehicles,” explained the Department of Works at the end of the works, in a press release.
It was the first time that Madrid used this mixture of components for one of its streets, an action with which Almeida’s team highlighted that it had reduced rolling noise and increased “the comfort of pedestrian traffic” by having chosen a pavement without together, in front of the “numerous trips and falls of the pedestrians” registered to date. According to municipal data used to justify the action, Arenal, Montera and Preciados streets account for more than 10% of the falls claimed in the entire Centro district, which represents just over 1% of all those that occur in the city.
As in Arenal, Montera Street was paved in the same way (at a cost of 1.5 million) and also has the same perforated appearance, as if it were the surface of a Gruyère cheese. Experts consulted by this newspaper point out that the granite aggregates of its most superficial layer are being released. And the passage of wheeled cars is apparently unrelated: in Montera, the section most traveled by four-wheelers -the one that goes from the junction with Aduana street to the entrance of the Plaza del Carmen- presents less wear than the one used mostly pedestrians. And the gaps are occurring mainly in the central area of the street.
A pavement that ‘absorbs’ pollution
Elsewhere in the center of the capital, the City Council had opted to re-pave or fix the streets with the highest traffic intensity with printed asphalt, as happened in Barco or San Andrés (Malasaña) after the good durability results obtained in Cruz or Augusto Figueroa . But on Arenal Street he chose a new solution, a super pavement that in addition to avoiding falls, it had the ability to absorb pollution: it was presented on July 13 with a visit from the Councilor for Works, Paloma García Romero, and the Councilor for the Center, José Fernández.
It was then reported that in addition to the micro-agglomerate, a “highly decontaminating” colorless photocatalytic paint had been applied, which supposedly uses the ultraviolet rays of sunlight for air purification. The council ensures, based on the manufacturer’s data, that every ten liters of paint applied has the capacity to eliminate the pollution produced by 20 vehicles in a year and is equivalent to planting 1,500 trees. In Arenal they poured 335 liters.
It is unknown if this photocatatic painting has had any effect on the poor preservation of the pavement that has taken place on Calle Arenal. With regard to its benefits against pollution, experts consider that in cities with pollution problems such as Madrid its action may be limited and even irrelevant. If the municipal data were true, the spilled paint would be enough to eliminate the pollution emitted by 670 cars in a year. And it would be equivalent to planting some 50,000 trees, triple the number that grow in the Retiro.
The reforms of Arenal and Montera have been highly criticized by some urban planners and neighbors. They consider that they have retaken an urban road aspect due to the new paving, inappropriate for a monumental area of Madrid and more in keeping with the time when road asphalt occupied its central part. “Yes, it is uglier, but it will last”, the merchants said when they saw the final result, confident that it would be the last works that they would have to suffer on their street during the next few years. Perhaps the return of the machines is not so far.