Saint-Denis (Reunion), correspondence
Seen from above, the cliff doesn’t look so terrifying anymore. The Reunion driver dominates the landscape. To his right, the Indian Ocean as far as the eye can see, to his left, he no longer even sees the saying “ old street “ of the coast. The limit of 50 km / h in some places allows him to admire the landscape from the top of the two lanes.
Twelve years after the official start of the project, the new coastal road was finally open to traffic on Sunday 28 August. Almost almost, as it is only accessible in one direction, from Saint-Denis to Grande Chaloupe. The rest of the route to La Possession inevitably passes at the foot of the rock faces. In the opposite direction of traffic, users heading to the Reunion capital still find themselves stuck on the two lanes under the cliff. And that the time of the repair work of the accropodi  damaged by the dam.
Whatever. In any case, some motorists, by car or on two wheels, have made the journey to be among the first to cover the 8.7 km stretch that traces a straight to the west, a hundred meters from the coast, above the waves. The work is known as “ the most expensive street in the world “ . Far from finished, the NRL has already entered the annals of Reunion.
- This partial opening takes place 12 years after the official launch of the project. © Réunion region
Since 2010, the construction of this pharaonic road has made headlines and made headlines many times in the local press. Exorbitant and uncontrollable additional costs, investigation by the Public Prosecutor’s Office for corruption and favoritism, ecological aberrations, judicial and administrative news …
The project was launched in 2010 by former regional president, Didier Robert, and his team. The official goal: to protect the 80,000 motorists who travel this busy highway every day from falling rocks. 21 people have died in this way since the construction of this road in 1976. The regional executive then kept the project to build the road over the sea, thus excluding other options: that of a halfway road, a tunnel, the installation of avalanche barriers to avoid falling stones or even the creation of a tram-train. At that time, public transport was not popular, and could even seem retrograde, when the car appeared as the hallmark of comfort and modernity.
The chosen option is therefore to create a first section in the shape of a viaduct and a second in the shape of a dam, in particular to meet the expectations of the transporters. Due to the lack of materials for the construction of the dam section, the construction site progressed slowly before being shut down, only to be abandoned in 2020. This issue of materials, although substantial, had not been foreseen. The road then ends … in the sea.
- The different road sections along the coast. © Réunion region
An article by Reporter traces the incredible history of the construction of this structure by the large multinationals Bouygues and Vinci. In 2021, the new mandate at the helm of the Réunion region inherited the child – and the resulting budgetary chasm – promising that it will end the road. The possibility of building a dam for the missing part, that is 2.7 km, was immediately excluded by the new regional majority. Thus Huguette Bello, the president, intends to give up the project to manage a megacava in Bois-Blanc (Saint-Leu), which had sparked the ire of the citizens’ associations created for the occasion.
The Srepen association – Reunionese Society for the Study and Protection of Nature – can only be satisfied with this decision of the “ any viaduct “ which he defended from the start. Compared to the dam option, in fact, it has the advantage of less damaging the seabed, as well as the specific fauna and flora of the reef. Fed by the spray of the sea, the latter is an exceptional biotope that is home to a unique species, the straw wood in the tail.
“ At the Port level there are new species of fish and corals, an entire environment in the process of being reconstituted “, explains the former president of Srepen. The coastal area is also frequented by marine mammals, whales and dolphins.
“ The complete route will not be delivered before 2028-2030 “
What will be the consequences of building a viaduct for this environment ? New studies will be needed to find out. The previous study by the National Council for the Protection of Nature (CNPN), of 2018, already mentioned “ proven negative impacts, insufficient consideration and uncertainties relating to the environmental impacts of the NRL “. After state control, the public should be invited to give their opinion.
“ The complete route will not be delivered before 2028-2030 “, the President of the Region, Huguette Bello has already announced. A delay of ten years with respect to the expected delivery date is therefore very likely. “ We will have well passed the mandate of Huguette Bello “underlines Jean-Pierre Marchau, regional secretary of Europe for ecology and greens.
“ At the end of the year, the Region is obliged to organize the Assises de la MobilitéHe adds. This could be an opportunity for the Reunionese to express their opinion. Aren’t they tired of having us build roads, wait for after-hours buses, etc.? ? “ The ecologist, if he recognizes that it was necessary to connect the viaduct, believes that finishing the road is not a priority. He would prefer to reinject the funds into alternatives to all-car cars: the installation of rail transport, for example. “ You realizeHe said, an urban tram costs between 400 and 500 million euros. There we will put roughly the price of two urban trams, all the funds from the Region are monopolized to finish this road, which will not solve the problems of traffic jams. “
- Dam elements already damaged risk generating additional additional costs. © Réunion region
The total cost of the road is now estimated at 2.4 billion euros, but many uncertainties remain about the evolution of the additional costs: after two years, almost a thousand accropodi are already damaged while the shell they form should be indestructible. How much will their repair cost ? How strong are the poles of the viaduct ? It will be possible to repatriate the megabarge from Rotterdam to Reunion Zuritewhich was used to build the pillars of the first viaduct before it was put up for sale ? What compensation will the multinationals finally be entitled to in the name of the risks arising from the first pickaxe ?
The Region has already announced that it will not implement some environmental compensation measures such as the “ disassembly “ of the current coastal road worth 50 million euros. But does he really have a choice? ? “ If the Region wants to obtain state aid of 420 million there are commitments, Réunion will not be able to have two coastal roads “believes Jean-Pierre Marchau. “ There is an environmental impact, not to mention that there could be an effect on the solidity of the cliff. If we remove the embankment that constitutes the current road, nothing says that it cannot collapse. But there is a rich biodiversity that cannot be abandoned. “