World Association of the Major metropolises
In the 2007-2011 term of office, Madrid City Council carried out the Madrid Río project, which was completed on 15 April 2011. The project consisted in upgrading the M-30 orbital motorway and running it underground in the western zone, along the Manzanares River. Running the M-30 underground in the river zone has been the biggest ecological rebalancing operation in Madrid’s recent history. Where there once used to be thousands of cars on the road, there is now a large linear park, a green corridor that stretches from El Pardo to Getafe, joining up the dots that were the previously unconnected woods, green spaces, historical gardens and urban parks, thus providing Madrid with an environmental infrastructure that is one of a kind in the family of large metropolises. In total, a universal-access surface area of 1,210,881 m2 was treated. This included the planting of 33,623 new trees (47 species), 470,844 bushes (38 species) and 210,898 m2 of meadowland. Throughout the length and breadth of Madrid Río, there are 30 kilometres of cycle paths, 33 sports fields, 17 children’s play areas, 3 fitness trails, 7 pétanque courts, 12 games tables, 3 cultural event platforms and an Interpretation Centre.
- The intervention has led to the river’s regeneration and a radical reduction in car presence.
- The river and its surroundings have become a large area where people can meet and enjoy themselves, and it is now an iconic image of the city.
- It has new facilities and contemporary public services; these have improved upon the pre-existing ones, which were in poor condition.
- Neighbourhoods are better integrated into the historical centre, and their accessibility to current and future facilities has improved.
- The project has aroused interest among citizens and fostered their collaboration, with broad consensus. More than 64,000 enquiries and requests were dealt with.
- Priority was given to the following criteria: sustainability, urban landscape, gender perspective, social integration and inclusive accessibility.
- On a metropolitan scale, Madrid Río provides the backbone for pre-existing historical resources: bridges, buildings and monuments that form part of Madrid’s history. They have been improved and their value has been restored, as they can now be accessed and enjoyed. A major cultural and historical backbone has been formed.
- On an urban scale, a new model has been incorporated, which integrates art and culture into public works and the new walkways that cross the river. These are now iconic images of the city, and can be found in private and public adverts for spaces, goods and services.
- On a local scale, the neighbourhood inhabitants’ images have been incorporated into the artistic adornment of the walkways, thus reinforcing a feeling of belonging to a new space that is distinct from the previous neighbourhood one; Madrid Río is a common space belonging to everyone.
- Running the M-30 underground and then landscaping the resultant surface area has increased functional and energy efficiency and has reduced carbon emissions, thereby generating financial savings for users and the city alike.
- The annual rate of accidents with victims has dropped by half in Calle 30 despite the increase in traffic.
- An increase in economic activity in the zone and in its area of influence is already noticeable. Likewise, there has been an increase in the value of private land and in residential and commercial property adjacent to the park, and in the owners’ interest in improving their homes and businesses.
Running this section of the M-30 underground and then landscaping it has reduced environmental impact in several ways. Of particular note are:
- The elimination of noise pollution. Thousands of neighbourhood inhabitants who previously could not open their windows can now hear the birdsong.
- The installation of filters in the underground sections has improved air quality. The 19 filtering stations pump out into the atmosphere 1,910,127 m3 of air that is cleaner than the outside air.
- The transformation of a zone that was afflicted by an infrastructure with high levels of traffic into a model urban park for the city.
- An increase in flora diversity, with more than 85 species planted. Moreover, 600,000 people have more than 45% of the available green area under 1 km away from their homes.
- The water quality of the Manzanares River has gone from being unacceptable to acceptable. Of particular note are the admissible nitrite levels for fish life and BOD5 levels.
- The zone’s environmental recovery is complemented by new sports zones, cultural spaces, fountains, sculptures and artistic walkways, turning it into a model recreational centre. Madrid Río is a sustainable transport (cycling and walking) infrastructure, which provides the backbone for the western zone of the city.
Technological impact. Innovation
There are three lines of innovation:
- An innovative solution called “technology sandwich” was developed and applied to the tunnels. This solution meets the requirements for waterproofing and moderate loads on the tunnels, and enables planted trees to take root and grow properly.
- On the new walkways across the river, innovations have been introduced in terms of structure, function and sustainability.
- Innovative functional accessibility solutions have been developed. These enable users to find their way round (orientation), learn about (identification and knowledge) and use the park irrespective of disability, cultural or language barriers. These solutions could be applied to other areas of the city and to the standardisation of solutions for people with reduced mobility or visual impairment to get around.
Universities, sports federations, user associations and 70 collaborating firms.
Ability to be replicated
The management and technological solutions, and the specific nature of the participatory process aimed at not missing any opportunities for urban rezoning and improvement have been the focus of interest and enquiries. In fact, the project has aroused considerable interest among international scholarly and town planning groups, so much so that, in the past few years, Madrid has organised more than 65 visits to explain the project to international delegations. The Mayors of Berlin, Santiago de Chile, Bangkok and Lyon have personally been to see the project area.