The long-awaited underpass was opened at the end of June; since then the volume of traffic has increased. Josele-Lanza
This summer was going to be the real test for the San Pedro tunnel. After its opening on June 25th the months of July and August would be crucial to assess the level of efficiency of the road infrastructure that had taken five years to build. The statistics so far are positive. According to the General Traffic Department (DGT), despite an increase in traffic volume, the stretch of the A-7 through San Pedro is safer with the tunnel than without.
The number of accidents recorded on the road between kilometre points 172 and 184 of the A-7 during July and August only fell by one from seven in July and August of 2011 to six in the same period of this year. Nevertheless the degree of gravity of the damage caused has altered significantly. Last year one person lost their life and another was seriously injured. This summer all injuries have been minor.
On the other hand, although this year’s accidents have all been minor, they have had greater repercussions on traffic flow, with hold-ups continuing until the vehicles involved were removed from the road.
Through San Pedro the ‘Autovía del Mediterráneo’ has only two lanes in each direction with narrow hard shoulders, therefore even minor collisions disrupt traffic flow considerably.
The accident figures become more positive taking into account the increase in traffic volume on the road. DGT statistics show a rise of 6.19 per cent during July and August, that is, a grand total of 5,873,926 vehicles, some 342,631 more than 2011.
The tunnel has reduced tailbacks at the Marbella exit from the A-7, although drivers approaching from Mijas have come up against more hold-ups. At this point the tailbacks resulting from several accidents have highlighted that the capacity of the road is still insufficient to cope with the volume of traffic in the area in the summer.
At the beginning of August there were two accidents in the space of 24 hours that brought traffic at the A-7 exits to a standstill. The first was a minor two-car collision with no injuries but it still caused tailbacks of more than seven kilometres. The second, when a trailer carrying bottles of water overturned on the A-7 in La Cala de Mijas, caused 11 kilometres of tailbacks.
Local traders have called on numerous occasions for the toll to be lifted on the AP-7 in the case of an accident on the A-7, in order to relieve traffic congestion.
Members of the CIT (Tourism Initiative Centre) and local business associations, along with the mayors of Estepona, Mijas and Marbella, have contacted the Ministry of Development on several occasions to call for solutions for the increased volume of heavy goods vehicles on the road, which are normally those involved in accidents. Cheaper toll fares, they maintain, would reduce this problem.
The opening of the A-7 tunnel has been good news for business owners in San Pedro Alcántara. The president of the San Pedro Association fo Small and Medium-sized Businesses (Apymespa), Briseida León, maintains that this summer they have seen more tourists in the town than in previous years.
“It’s true that in July and August there have been more people in San Pedro, and this has been made possible by the A-7 tunnel and the introduction of blue zone parking which has meant a greater turnover of people”, she pointed out.
Nevertheless the greater number of tourists has not meant more businesss for all the local shops, according to León, who pointed out that shops with cheaper products had sold more.
While Briseida León recognised the benefits of the opening of the tunnel, she also stressed the importance of thework to build the planned boulevard on the surface level. “That would really boost business in the area”, she said.
For the area above the tunnel, proposals include a park and a ‘gourmet’ market, facilities that will attract more visitors to shops that are currently off the beaten track.