San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

San José Municipality to demolish large new speed bumps in Barrio Chino

In what may be a metaphor for San José Mayor Johnny Araya’s troubled pet project Chinatown, this week the Public Works and Transport Ministry ordered the removal of four massive (and massively intrusive) speed bumps installed just seven months ago, reported on Tuesday.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Courtesy of

The four speed bumps, collectively known by Tico drivers as “domos” because of their resemblance to St. Paul’s Cathedral or the Great Stupa at Sanchi rather than velocity-curbing tools, will be removed in July. According to ministry officials, the badly designed eyesores are also dangerous, having caused at least two accidents since they were installed, municipal official Marco Vinicio Corrales said.

The concrete structures – whose height had already been reduced once at an additional cost to taxpayers – are located at each intersection of Barrio Chino Boulevard, on Calle 9 between Avenidas 2 and 14. Their goal was to reduce traffic speed on a pedestrian boulevard, but the domos ended up halting traffic altogether and causing motorcyclists peril during a rainstorm. 

Removing the domes will cost the municipality (taxpayers) about ₡6 million  ($12,000).

Construction of the 550-meter strip that is Barrio Chino in downtown San José began in February 2012, with a $1 million donation from China. The municipality (taxpayers) chipped in ₡200 million (more than $397,000), and it was inaugurated last November.

The mayor’s project hasn’t exactly had its intended effect. A recent story in the daily La Nación titled, “Ni tan barrio, ni tan chino” (“Not really a neighborhood and not really Chinese”), noted that only about 15 percent of businesses on the boulevard are Chinese, and several shops have closed due to scarcity of foot traffic.

And, lacking customers, the oldest pre-Chinatown Chinese restaurant on the block closed shortly after the neighborhood was inaugurated.

Contact Alberto Font at

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