Comptroller’s Decisión Delays Highway Project

February 11, 2005

A plan to widen the 68-kilometerstretch of highway from San José westto San Ramón received a blow last weekwhen the Comptroller General’s Officereturned the project’s contract to theNational Concessions Council (CNC)without its requisite stamp of approval.The comptroller returned the contractwith 60 requests for clarification before itcan be approved.The project is expected to reduce traveltime between the two cities by 45 minutesduring rush hour.CNC executive director Rocío Aguilarsaid the comptroller’s issues will take twoweeks to clarify and require no modificationto the contract between the governmentand the firm Autopistas del ValleS.A.“We don’t think it will be a torturousroad,” she said, adding that the contract,signed Oct. 1, 2004, should be approvedby March.Autopistas del Valle S.A., a consortiummade up of Spanish firms FCC andSacyr, Portuguese firm Soaraes Da Costaand Costa Rican firm M&S, will thenhave one year to finalize the design andfinancing of the road improvements.The improvements entail expandingthe General Cañas Highway from LaSabana Park to Juan SantamaríaInternational Airport to six lanes andexpanding the road between the airport tothe so-called Manolos intersection to fourlanes.After the design is finalized,Autopistas del Valle will have 25 monthsfor construction, making completion apossibility by 2008, Aguilar said.The same consortium may also makeanother long-awaited concession a reality,she said.In November, Covisa, a consortium ofCanadian firms, backed out of its concessionto build a road linking the westernsuburb of Ciudad Colón and the Pacific slopetown of Orotina, for faster access tothe central Pacific coast. The projectincludes other highway improvements,ultimately creating a direct link betweenSan José and the Pacific Port of Caldera,a plan three decades in the making (TT,Jan. 23, 2004).Autopistas del Valle told theConcessions Council last week theywant to pick up where Covisa left off.The council will now spend the nextthree months evaluating the possibilitiesof Autopistas taking over the SanJosé-Caldera contract. However, possibilityof making the dream a reality isstill many years away, Aguilar emphasized.Covisa backed out of the contract sayingthe land expropriations required bythe government for the project were movingtoo slow.The speed of expropriations along theSan José-San Ramón road was one of thecomptroller’s concerns in the recent rejection.Aguilar said a timeline is defined inthe contract.The comptroller also questioned whyAutopistas del Valle immediately startsreceiving funds from the highway’s tollsonce the contract enters into effect,rather than after the improvements aremade.Aguilar explained the company willimmediately begin maintaining the highway.Toll rates will remain the sameuntil after the improvements are made,she said.

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