A conversation with Eng. Elisabete Portalegre


A conversation with Eng. Elisabete Portalegre

'I would like our work, which does not belong to us, to be congratulated, served, endured and continued to contribute to a real imaginary, committed to the definitive construction of an ever better city'

Tell us about your professional career. How did you get to the Municipal Maintenance and Conservation Department management of the Department of Infrastructure and Engineering Works of the Lisbon City Council?

I joined CML in February 1988, at the then called Technical Housing Office (GTH), which was for me, and for all the professionals who worked there, a great school. In this office, which was created essentially to eradicate the so-called “shacks” in Lisbon, building social housing, in addition to working with great names in architecture and urbanism at the time, we did all the projects and works from blank paper to turnkey. I was at GTH until January 2006 (that is, until the completion of the resettlement program), when I came to the Municipal Maintenance and Conservation Department (DMMC), which, at that time, was named Municipal Projects and Works Department, which I left in January 2011 for other challenges, namely, one year at Parque Escolar and six years as Director of the Department of Mobility and Traffic Management, returning to the DMMC this time, also with the skills of Engineering Works, in addition to others I already had acquired in this department.

What are your main responsibilities and tasks in this position?

In addition to the management and maintenance of Road Engineering Works, the department also has, in addition to many others, the task to design projects, coordinate and supervise works, construct, maintain, recover and repair road infrastructures, pedestrian and cycle paths and transport support equipment. We also develop reports and approvals, of all infrastructure designs promoted by public, private and State companies and the inspection and reception of the respective works. We also ensure the construction, reconstruction, repair and demolition of support walls and fences, as well as the consolidation of escarpments, on municipal property.

What are the most relevant aspects to consider when making decisions, in order to safeguard the most pressing situations of infrastructure conservation?

Essentially the safety of people and goods and also road safety. We always try to act with this mission.

What are the biggest problems you face in your day-to-day?

We have few human resources for the number of issues, problems and procedures that we have at hand. And those we have are reaching retirement age. I would very much like the engineers who currently work with us to have the opportunity to pass on all the knowledge and experience to the youngest, who I hope will join our team soon.

What is your assessment of the past few years regarding infrastructure and engineering works maintenance?

We have been investing in this area for some years, namely in the maintenance and structural reinforcement of engineering works. It is a work of great present invisibility, but of great future visibility. We are doing it gradually with the resources we have, aiming nonetheless to always do more and better.

What more relevant projects are now underway or about to start?

Regarding road engineering works, we have ongoing works of general rehabilitation of the viaducts of Pedrouços and Av. Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro. We plan to rehabilitate Rego viaducts. And we have in mind the rehabilitation of all the viaducts, tunnels, underpasses and overpasses of the city, as I mentioned earlier, gradually with the resources we have. In road infrastructures, we continue to invest in projects like the “uma Praça em Cada Bairro” and “Pavimentar Lisboa”, projects that, as is already visible in many areas of the city, will produce an increase in pedestrian and relaxation areas, green areas, cycle path network, installation of new urban furniture and more public lighting.

What would you like to see accomplished in the next ten years, in this sector?

In fulfilling our purpose, we would like to have all the engineering works in the city of Lisbon rehabilitated and that we could have implemented a system that allows us to have a more proactive performance. I would like to have this system both for engineering works and for other areas of the department’s competence. Basically, what I would like is for our work, which does not belong to us, to congratulate, serve, endure and continue to contribute to a real imaginary, committed to the definitive construction of an even better city, Lisbon.

This interview is part of the Artes & Letras Magazine # 117, March 2020
Partially automatic translation from portuguese: some expressions may differ from their actual meaning.

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