Bottlenecking on new Caldera highway prompts rethink

February 5, 2010

Costa Rica´s National Concessions Council (CNC) could modify the toll system on the new San José-Caldera highway, but said they will need one month to study the route´s traffic.

Due to opening weekend excitement and last minute beach trips before school starts, tens of thousands of cars have traveled the new road in the past two weeks, causing long back-ups at toll booths. The CNC has decided to wait until the thrill calms to measure how many cars will actually use the toll way under normal conditions.

To relieve congestion, the CNC suggested that Autopistas del Sol, the Spanish company contracted to build and operate the highway, raise tolls during rush hour to discourage transit at peak times in the morning and the evening.

The government institution also requested that Autopistas del Sol devise a plan to expedite toll payments and prevent bottleneck clogs during high-traffic times such as Semana Santa (Easter holy week) and national holidays. Drivers have also complained about the amount of time that it takes toll booth operators to return change.

From Thursday, Jan. 28 through Jan. 31 – the road´s first four day´s in operation – an average of 22,897 vehicles traveled the route per day, well above the projected 2,000. During the four day period, drivers reported waiting for hours at toll booths.

The CNC expects Autopistas del Sol to submit new plans by the first week of March, which the concessions council will then evaluate for approval. If rejected, Autopistas del Sol will have five days to revise its plan provided the scheme does not require new construction. If the company decides to build more toll booths, it will have three months to build them.

If congestion persists, the CNC will grant drivers free reign of the road and Autopistas del Sol will be fined $5,000 per day for not complying with modifications and deadlines.

Drivers will be notified 15 days before any changes take place.

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