By Emily Backus

01 agosto, 17:11
Traffic along the Via dei Fori Imperiali
Traffic along the Via dei Fori Imperiali
ROME MAYOR WANTS FORUM AREA 100% PEDESTRIAN (ANSA) - Rome, August 1 - The mayor of Rome on Thursday bucked criticism over plans to ban private traffic from a stretch of major downtown artery, Via dei Fori Imperiali, declaring his hope to eliminate all other motor vehicles too.

Mayor Ignazio Marino reacted to a front-page article on the International Herald Tribune reporting furor over plans, starting Saturday morning, to limit traffic on a piece of multilane road that runs through a major archeological site, from the Colosseum, past the ancient Roman Forum to the central Piazza Venezia.

Pedestrians, bicycles, emergency vehicles, buses and taxis will be the only traffic allowed as of this weekend.

''I read in the papers the controversy of many - the criticism of the tobacconist or of the framer who speak of disaster. I think we have the most noteworthy monument in the world and we've turned it into a traffic island,'' said Marino. ''I say this with respect, but between the interest of he who can't park his car in front of the tobacconist and caring for the Colosseum, I chose the latter,'' Marino said.

Marino also declared that he didn't think current plans to protect the zone from motor vehicles went far enough.

''I am dreaming of arriving at the total pedestrianization of the Roman Forum during my administration,'' Marino said, adding that extending a metro line would be key to the plan, in order to offer Romans alternative public transport to buses along that stretch of road.

But Marino went even further, declaring he wants to open the road up for new archeological digs.

''We are launching the creation of an office in Brussels to look for European funds necessary also to begin archeological digs in Via dei Fori Imperiali,'' he said.

New traffic signs were installed this week on the stretch of the thoroughfare this week to ready it for transformation on Saturday.

Private vehicles will be banned from the piece of road starting from 5:30 on Saturday morning, marking a revolution in mobility for Rome's historic centre.

The road will be closed to all but pedestrians at 19:00 on Saturday for 'Notte dei Fori' (Forum Night), an evening of shows and concerts held to celebrate the artery's urban rebirth.

Starting 19:00 on Sunday, public transportation, taxis and emergency vehicles will also be allowed back onto the part of road closest to the Colosseum.

Earlier this month, the mayor claimed barring private vehicles from the piece of downtown artery would slash traffic by 90%.

''That seems a good result,'' said Marino.

Via dei Fori Imperiali was built by Italy's Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini between 1924 and 1932 to link the Roman Imperial Forum and the Colosseum to his office in Palazzo Venezia just north of the Capitoline Hill.

The street's heavy traffic has been blamed for causing damage to surrounding structures because of pollution and vibration over the decades.

The ban plan will keep the road open to cyclists such as Marino, who has made a habit of commuting to work by bike.