If you’re planning to go to the Multiplaza Escazú mall or passing it on your way to Guachipelín or Santa Ana, prepare for delays.
Construction began recently west of San José on the first phase of the longawaited Caldera highway project, which will provide a much faster route to the Pacific coast.
The first phase will improve the existing
, which runs between San José and Santa Ana, and then extend the highway to the PacificCoast.
The existing route is a slow, winding, two-lane highway that crosses the Aguacate pass.
Plans for the 77-kilometer (48-mile) highway have been in the works for 30 years and appear to have finally broken free of bureaucratic quicksand.
But nothing is free. The project carries a $230 million price tag. And the highway’s construction will cost motorists hours of their time, as current construction will, at least temporarily, increase congestion.
The firm behind the project, Autopistas del Sol, began work last month on the first section of the highway project, a 14-kilometer stretch along the
that will reach Ciudad Colón. The firm estimates it will take one year to finish this phase.
Crews are currently working around the Multiplaza Escazú mall and Guachipelín-Escazú exit to widen the exit ramp and onramp between the highway and the Multiplaza roundabout from two lanes to four lanes.
Farther west, Autopistas del Sol crews will also widen the tunnel that goes beneath the highway to four lanes. That tunnel is now only one lane wide, with the two directions of traffic taking turns to pass through.
Construction on both sections of the Próspero Fernández – which receives 80,000 cars a day, with 9,000 packed into its lanes during rush hour alone – is expected to last eight months, according to a statement from the firm.
Autopistas del Sol has assured motorists it will try to minimalize delays.
“We will continue to maintain traffic in both lanes in both directions. To work on them, the center island between the two directions of circulation will be paved, in order to detour the vehicles into these lanes when it is necessary to work on the existing lanes,” said Alvaro Muelas, Autopistas del Sol general manager.
According to an email from Muelas, crews have begun paving the center of the highway but have not begun work on the exit ramps or the Guachipelín tunnel.
The firm is also looking to reduce congestion by working on one section at a time, while Transit Police will work in the area to direct traffic. The Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) will also be marking alternate routes, according to Autopistas.
More “complex” jobs, such as paving the highway lanes, will be carried out at night while other work will be done outside the morning and evening rush hours to lessen their impact on traffic.
“However, it is recommended that users take due precautions, planning their trips with a little bit of extra time,” the firm said.
Autopistas del Sol looks to recuperate its investment in the highway through a toll. According to the daily La Nación, the existing tollbooth between Escazú and Santa Ana will be expanded to 13 lanes in the direction of Santa Ana and 14 coming back toward San José.
When asked whether this will cause congestion, as the 13 or 14 lanes will have to squeeze back into the two lanes of the highway, Muelas said, “The (tollbooths) have been designed with transition areas to channel the vehicular flow to the entrance and exit. There will also be expedited transit lanes where you can pay without being stopped.”