Major construction sites around Lugano station: timelines, objectives and concerns

The City, the Canton and SBB reviewed details of both past and future projects that will be transforming the area- Officials call for public understanding-Mayor Foletti: "It will be worth it, let's deliver on our future upgrades."
© CdT/Chiara Zocchetti

Jumble. This is the word that perhaps defines the last years of Lugano's SBB station and the immediate area surrounding it. A jumble of construction sites and projects that to the uninitiated may seem messy and endless, even counterintuitive, at least at first glance. Sandwiched between new pedestrian and vehicular underpasses, displacements of listed buildings, new developments, tram-train and planning variants, it is a snap to get lost. And authorities know it: the interested parties (Canton, SBB and City) yesterday evening decided to take stock of the situation in nearby Besso, to explain to a crowded Stelio Molo auditorium what will happen in the area in the years ahead. And to ask for more patience from the people who live in that area: "Today we see almost only inconvenience," said Lugano Mayor Michele Foletti, "but we have been doing these works to not only bring improvements to the Besso neighborhood, all of which will be better connected to the center, but also in terms of quality of life, mobility and public transport.

Multimillion-dollar interlocking game

We have written about this for some time: construction sites at the station are a interlocking game. Completing one unlocks another. Work is now underway on the newly constructed pedestrian underpass at Besso and will continue until 2025 (this is where a building, the former station depot, will be moved a few meters). Then in the next five years, the Genzana road tunnel underpass at the height of the former dairy (the project was recently published and is estimated to cost 43 million) and the inter-modal hub that will take the place of the temporary park at the former Pestalozzi are expected to begin and be finished. The node, which will have a two-story parking garage (140 spaces) beneath its feet and overhead a building some 20 meters high that will accommodate public content, the design of which is being finalized. An estimated investment of 80 million is estimated. That is as far as the main projects are concerned. But there are others, outside the "StazLu2" perimeter. First and foremost is the connection link between the station and the future network-tram train, which will have a stop sixty meters below the station. And then there's the coverage of the Massagno trench, with SUPSI's building projects ( in particular a campus close to the station). And also the decision to alter the Arizona intersection in Massagno: a work of altogether minor scope but capable in the construction phase of making mobility difficult.

Zen's horizon

So how much more patience will people living in the surrounding area have to have? Diego Rodoni (director of the Canton's Construction Division) has spoken of a 2030 horizon, but the estimation of Lugano City Councilwoman Karin Valenzano Rossi is arguably more accurate: "Ten to fifteen years." Because projects by private individuals, on the Via Basilea frontage, and by the SBB might also be added to the aforementioned projects. Works that are not under the interlocks mentioned above, and therefore with potentially more extended timeframes.

The light in the middle of the tunnel

The question is if it will be worth it. Foletti on the subject mentioned that he looks at what has already been done, to the station atrium that gave those arriving by train in Lugano a view of the lake. And it is the same architectural team that is working on the new pedestrian underpass. The logic, said group leader Lorenzo Felder, is the same: make it a meeting place as much as a place of passage. So there's no need to forget the old, dark pedestrian underpass at Besso: the one under construction will be gently sloping and will benefit from lots of natural light thanks to large openings. As well as an area to stand and provided with commercial spaces under the future Besso plaza. That could even become a new square for the neighborhood.

The devil is in the details

A similar evening had been organized two years ago. Last night there were significantly more people and all things considered there was more sharing of the project. The major criticisms centered on the loss of parking spaces (to which it was retorted that the station will be so well-connected that getting there by car will make little sense). However, what really heated things up the most, demonstrating that the devil lies in the details, was a specific aspect: the temporary arrangement of the road system. In particular, the alleged dangerousness - reported by several local residents - of the new bus stop area on Via Sorengo. Remedial measures - even conflicting ones - were requested, and the officials assured that they would do everything possible to improve the situation, remembering in any case that the arrangement is - precisely - a temporary one.