Feature: COVID-19 restrictions create "right time" for Greece's Attica to renew road infrastructure

2021-06-08 12:06:07 GMT2021-06-08 20:06:07(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

ATHENS, June 8 (Xinhua) -- As the preventive measures against COVID-19 are keeping streets empty, with residents staying at home under lockdown, bulldozers have taken over various communities in Attica, the most populous Greek region.

Seizing this rare opportunity, the local government has invested to improve the region's road safety infrastructure, officials told Xinhua recently.

Greece is falling behind among European Union (EU) members in road safety, with higher traffic fatalities than the average of the bloc. Last year, the country registered 54 road deaths per 1 million inhabitants, while the EU average was 42 per 1 million, according to the European Commission.

Earlier this year, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis presented a 450 million-euro (548 million-U.S.-dollar) national action plan to improve road safety.

Financed by the European Investment Bank, the plan would fix some 7,000 dangerous locations and focus on educating young people about reckless driving behavior, such as driving at an excessive speed or under the influence of alcohol, and lax use of safety belts and helmets.

In Attica, where about a third of Greece's population lives, authorities have sped up projects to improve the regional road networks, considering that infrastructure is also crucial to preventing serious crashes.

"We put emphasis on safety infrastructure. In several sites throughout Attica, an extensive program of new asphalt paving is underway," Governor of Attica Giorgos Patoulis told Xinhua.

"On the coastal front and especially in the bay of Faliro (a suburb of Athens), under a 115 million-euro (140 million-dollar) project, infrastructure works will help the management of rainwater, and new bridges and junctions will facilitate traffic flow," he added.

Furthermore, across the greater Athens area, crews are repainting lane markings, installing new signs and upgrading traffic lights using photovoltaic systems.

Progress is monitored at the Attica region's Traffic Management Center, which holds a key role in promoting road safety in Attica, with experts receiving information from about 300 closed-circuit TV cameras and other sources to monitor traffic and intervene when needed.

As one of the first in Europe, the Traffic Management Center is aimed at "providing travel time data regarding the urban area," said Panagiotis Kariotis, head of the Directorate of Metropolitan Infrastructure Management of Attica.

"Here in the center, we also monitor the traffic lights of the entire Attica. There are about 2,500 signaling nodes, over 40,000 lamps, which, of course, with the new project of the Attica region, are replaced with low-voltage LED type bulbs to save energy," said Kimon Logothetis, head of the Traffic Management Center and Road Safety Consultant of Attica. Enditem