Preliminary plans have been revealed for a radical restructuring of the area surrounding the Ara Pacis museum complex, which, if passed will turn the area into a pedestrian zone with a large public park. The principal element of the project is the re-routing of traffic on the busy Lungotevere in Augusta through a 600 metre underpass between the Cavour and Regina Margherita bridges. Two exits are planned for the tunnel: one at Lungotevere in Augusta, the other at the entrance of the existing tunnel by the ministry of the marine. Parallel to the Ara Pacis plan is a similar renewal project for the adjacent Piazza Augusto Imperatore.
The plans also involve the demolition of most of the museum wall which divides the Lungotevere in Augusta from Piazza Augusto Imperatore. Designed by American "starchitect" Richard Meier and built in 2006 to separate the Ara Pacis from the traffic, the wall obscures the view of the two nearby churches of S. Rocco and S. Girolamo degli Schiavoni. Due to its modern design not being in keeping with its historic surroundings, the partition has long been a contentious issue, with Rome's mayor Gianni Alemanno being its most vociferous critic. However, after a site visit in April of this year in the presence of Alemanno, Meier gave his support to the proposals and described the plan as a "type of Roman Central Park".
The plans have been passed by Rome's city authorities and now await approval from Italy's ministry of cultural heritage over the coming days. If approved, the project will be put out to tender with the winners of the contract beginning a two-year programme of works in spring 2011.
Central to the funding of the Ara Pacis project, which would cost