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José González-Lander in 1987
|Born||November 13, 1933
|Died||January 18, 2000
Jose Gonzalez-Lander (November 13, 1933 – January 18, 2000) was a Caracas, Venezuela born engineer credited for leading the planning, design and construction of the Caracas Metro during an uninterrupted period of more than thirty years, from 1966 to 1997.
Mr. Gonzalez-Lander dedicated his life to public service rising through the ranks of the Ministry of Public Works where he started as an assistant engineer when he was in his freshman year in engineering school. He graduated in 1958 with a degree in Civil Engineering from Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas. His graduation was delayed almost two years due to student unrest during the final years of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez' dictatorship. The Venezuelan government granted him a scholarship to attend graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he concentrated in Transportation Engineering and Economics.
On his return to Venezuela Mr. Gonzalez-Lander was put in charge of the Ministry of Public Works' Office of Transportation Planning where he spearheaded the design of the backbone of the future Caracas Metro system, a 20 km underground double track rail line connecting the East and West ends of the city. This effort would expand for 10 years before the project could muster enough public support for its construction.
Caracas' rapid growth as a result of the oil boom of the 1970s strained the capacity of the city's road network and the need for a rapid transit system became evident as automotive traffic along its modern expressways became chaotic. The government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez decided to provide full political and financial support to the construction of this complex project. The man selected to head this effort was Jose Gonzalez-Lander who, in 1977, founded the Compañía Anónima Metro de Caracas, an independent government enterprise that would plan and execute the construction of the system and would operate it once completed (similar to an American Transit Authority.)
This was one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects undertaken in the country since the Guri Dam was started in the 1960s. Construction of the first phase was very successful and revenue service started on January 3, 1983. The success of the project was in large measure attributed to Mr. Gonzalez-Lander and his team's technical and managerial skills. In a country where most public endeavors are stifled by poor management and charges of corruption, the Caracas Metro and Mr. Gonzalez-Lander became an example to follow.
During his 20 years at the helm of the company, Gonzalez Lander oversaw the construction of the first line and of two branches (see List of Caracas Metro stations.) The last rail line completed under his management was opened to revenue service in 1994. The success of the company continued during the operation of the system with the creation of a network of feeder buses which replicated the efficiency of the underground service and gained the praise of all its users. This became the only centrally controlled network of high capacity buses in the city where, up to that point, surface transportation was provided by driver-owned jitneys. During his tenure the company also laid the foundation for the future growth of the system establishing an expansion program for the year 2010 that included two additional Metro corridors and two extensions of existing lines; three of these projects started construction between the years 2001 and 2003.
Gonzalez-Lander received multiple decorations during his professional career, most notably the Orden Francisco de Miranda and Orden Libertador from the Venezuelan government; the Ordre National de la Légion d'Honneur from the French Government and the Ordine al Merito della Repubblica Italiana from the Italian Government. In his honor, the building that houses the Operations Control Center and Metro's training facilities was named "Jose Gonzalez Lander."
Gonzalez-Lander was also an accomplished amateur painter. During a period of 18 years he painted several hundred oil canvases mostly depicting urban scenes of early twentieth century Caracas and many portraits of his family.
Mr. Gonzalez-Lander retired in 1997 and received the honorary title of President Emeritus of the company he founded. He died in Caracas on January 18, 2000 at the age of 66.