THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — Greece’s Central Archaeological Council ruled Thursday that a section of an ancient Roman road in the northern city of Thessaloniki should be removed to make way for construction of the city’s long-delayed subway.
After a marathon 19-hour overnight session, the council ruled 13-2 for the antiquities to be removed and then reinstalled once a central subway station is built.
The project has led to outrage among some experts. Critics argue that moving the artifacts will inevitably damage them and say the station should be constructed around antiquities, a process that officials say would be more time-consuming and expensive.
Unearthed in 2012, the antiquities date mostly from the 4th century, with 6th century additions. They consist of a 76-meter- (220-foot-) long and 7.5-meter- (25-foot) wide road and remains of shops, a collapsed monumental stone arch, water pipes and a sewage conduit.
Some archaeologists have protested the removal of the antiquities since 2013. A petition calling for the artifacts to remain untouched has gathered more than 12,300 signatures.
The Thessaloniki Metro project has been mired by delays and setbacks for more than a decade. Announced in 2004 as a solution to the chronic traffic congestion in Greece's second-largest city, the subway system is to extend 9.6 kilometers (six miles) with 13 stations.
Construction began in 2006, and the subway originally was scheduled for completion in 2012.
But the unearthing of significant ancient finds during construction stymied the plans, and the city has yet to see any form of underground public transportation. Successive governments have vowed to see the subway completed. Officials now say it will be completed by 2023.