For generations residents of Comuna 13, a hillside neighborhood in the Colombian city of Medellin, have had to climb the equivalent of roughly 28 flights of stairs a day just to get home from the center of the city.
But they will no longer have to take the exhausting 35-minute hike up the hillside thanks to a massive, outdoor escalator constructed by the Colombian government. According to Colombian officials, the $6.7 million escalator will shorten the trip to only 6 minutes, a fact which is not lost on the grateful residents of Comuna 13.
“This is a dream come true,” homemaker Olga Holguin told RCN television.
Cesar Hernandez, the head of projects for Medellin, told the Associated Press that the electric stairway is divided into six sections and has a length of 384 meters (1,260 feet). One side provides transportation up the hillside while the other goes down. Although it is not yet completed, authorities plan on building a covering to provide for the event of bad weather.
Planners hope that the escalator will help reinvigorate and reinvent the community, which is most associated with deceased drug lord Pablo Escobar and his cocaine smuggling operation, the Medellin Cartel. Escobar enjoyed tremendous popularity among Medellin residents due to his tendency to spread his drug fortune among the populace, giving large sums to help members of the community and ensure their loyalty. Escobar was killed in the city during a 1993 shootout with Colombian police.
The mayor of Medellin, Alonso Salazar is optimistic, telling the Associated Press that it “turned out very well.” Other cities have already taken notice, he added, saying that officials from Rio de Janeiro have scheduled a visit to inspect the escalator and determine if a similar project could benefit residents of the Brazilian city’s hillside communities.