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The controversial renewal project of Istanbul's Taksim Square started yesterday under the shadow of major traffic congestion and the outcry of residents.
Traffic was halted in Istanbul's busiest transit point Taksim as of yesterday, in order to pedestrianize the area by building five tunnels on each side. In the first step of the project, the Harbiye approach of Cumhuriyet Street up to the start of Tarlaba_ Boulevard has been closed to traffic.
However, a number of local shopkeepers, citizens and tourists have expressed their concerns about the work.
Turhan Karakulak, the owner of the Marmaris Bfe, a 50-year-old snack bar located on Cumhuriyet Street, said his daily sales had decreased 90 percent in just one day. "Nobody informed us about this. Yesterday morning they came and built this wall in front of my kiosk. It blocks my doorway, light and air," he said.
Another shopkeeper, Mesut Tokgz, said that although he was paying a lot of money for his clothing shop "Free Zone," this did not seem to make any difference. Tokgz said he had been a supporter of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) from the day the party was founded, but added that he would never again vote for it. "One morning we woke up to this nightmare. I will have to take down the shutters soon," he said.
On the other hand, Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topba_ said Istanbul residents would be thankful when the project was completed. "There are some habits that have caused traffic congestion in Taksim. But I believe this chaos will end soon," he told reporters yesterday in Istanbul ahead of a flight to Cairo.
When the project is completed, vehicles will be directed underground into tunnels extending in every direction underneath the square, while Taksim Square will only be open to pedestrian traffic. The first step of the project will take eight months according to the municipality.
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