UCR: Roads in Crisis, Crews Not Helping

December 7, 2007

Costa Rica’s roads are as bad as ever, and the agency charged with maintaining them is making them worse.

Those are the primary findings of a report structural engineers from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) released this week.

The report details a laundry list of roadmaintenance wrongdoing, from poor choice of pavement types to lack of planning, outdated maintenance techniques and inadequate supervision and enforcement.

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT), according to the study, continues to patch its abundant potholes and deteriorated road surfaces one at a time – by hand.

Engineers found that even longer stretches of road – 100 meters or more – were done by rake and wheelbarrow – and not with machinery.

“We may be the only country in the world left using these primitive means, said Marco Rodríguez, who co-led the study.

The process, he said, is not only painstaking and time-consuming but also ineffective.

“When that much of a road is damaged, it needs to be torn up and completely rehabilitated.

These quick fixes are only making things worse,” he said.

The poor planning and repair work is aggravated by increasing traffic, particularly overweight semitrailer trucks, which regularly flaunt the country’s regulations and travel on back roads.

The study blames lack of enforcement.

As part of the study, the university surveyed 1,000 trucks on roadways throughout the country. Thirty percent were found to exceed Costa Rica’s maximum limit.

“We haven’t had a weigh station in operation since 2000 and now we’re paying the price,” he said.

“It’s just one more example of poor planning and management. We’re allowing our good roads to get bad, then only half-repairing the bad ones. We’re never going to solve the problem that way,” he said.

Rodríguez blames the ministry administration and planning departments for the ongoing debacle.

“The problem of repairing roads is nothing complicated. . . It’s our politics that holds us back.”

The Tico Times contacted the ministry but did not receive a response by press time.

In a statement Tuesday, Vice-Minister Pedro Castro said he was skeptical of the report.

“If we do road maintenance as they suggest, when it rains we’d have 4,000 kilometers of undriveable roadways and 500 kilometers in perfect condition. That would have an enormous effect on the country’s production and tourism,” he said.

Castro cited lack of funding as one of the primary issues.

The UCR report is another strike against an ailing MOPT, which earlier this year faced a report by the Japanese Aid Agency (JICA), which found that most of the country’s 1,330 bridges suffer from severe deterioration (TT, Aug. 10).

 

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