San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

MOPT Says ‘Smart’ Lights Save Drivers Time, Cash

The “intelligent stoplights” installed recently at intersections throughout Costa Rica are saving the country hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel, if not more, said Karla González, who heads the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT).

The stoplights have been installed at hundreds of intersections throughout San José, and they are equipped with cameras that are monitored at a control center in downtown San José. By monitoring traffic flow, traffic specialists in the control center have fine-tuned the lights’ timing to improve traffic flow.

Speaking to the press this week to review her ministry’s achievements and plans halfway through the Oscar Arias presidency, González said that on one particular route alone, the improvements translate into nearly $1 million in saved gasoline.

The minister said that the time to travel from the U.S. Embassy in the western San José neighborhood of Pavas to the eastern suburb of San Pedro has shortened from 29 minutes to 21 minutes, according to a study by MOPT.

The difference in those few minutes, González said, equals a savings of $785,000 in fuel that would be wasted in bad traffic.

The minister also highlighted other efforts by the ministry to improve San José’s traffic congestion, including plans to create new bus routes that skirt the city’s boundaries, rather than entering downtown, to link outlying neighborhoods.

The minister also said the government is continuing to pursue plans for a metropolitan electric train. However, it was reported the following day that those plans appear to have been set back considerably as the Comptroller General annulled a feasibility study that would have laid the foundation for the project.

While González had assured press the contract for the project – which will be awarded as a concession to a private company – would be awarded before President Arias’ term ends in 2010, the daily La Nación reported it would likely be a year later than planned.

Currently, the Costa Rican Railroad Institute (INCOFER) runs a diesel passenger train through the Greater Metropolitan Area. González said a MOPT study found that 900,000 Costa Ricans have used the train.

The minister noted her agency has increased its “execution rate,” or the amount of its allotted budget that it spends each year to 105% in 2007, with the extra 5% coming from a loan from the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (CABEI).

This compares with an 86% rate in 2005 and 78% in 2006, the last two years of former president Abel Pacheco’s administration.

Among other achievements González noted was awarding the concession to build the long-awaited

Caldera Highway

, which would create a much faster route from the Central Valley to the central Pacific coast. The minister also said the

Costanera Sur. Highway

, which runs south from the Pacific port town of Quepos, should be finished by the end of this year.


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