San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Circunvalación to close for 2 months, says Costa Rica Transport Ministry

Get ready, San José traffic is about to get a lot worse.

Heavy rains on Tuesday forced the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT) and the National Roadway Council (CONAVI) to close temporary bridges facilitating one of the capital’s most important highways, Route 39, also known as the Circunvalación, as a precautionary measure. 

The downpour Tuesday suddenly raised the level of the María Aguilar River, further eroding the earth supporting the Bailey bridges installed as a stopgap measure when a large section of the road fell away after previous storm on Aug. 25. That storm brought down trees and debris that blocked several culverts under the road, backing up the river and eating away at the side of the road.

MOPT-CONAVI said in a press conference Wednesday afternoon that the section of the highway 250 meters toward Pavas from the Hatillo 8 stoplight would remain closed for at least two months, according to the daily La Nación and added that MOPT plans to erect an even longer Bailey bridge until new culverts can be installed as part of the permanent solution.

Police have been coordinating traffic with detours at the Hatillo 8 intersection and the exit ramp toward Route 27 (San José-Caldera) with Route 39.

La Nación reported that MOPT proposed expanding the circulation restrictions on vehicles to twice a week. Under the proposal, drivers would stay off the road once a week plus an additional day during rush hour. Such a move would require an executive order.

The newspaper released a list of the proposed updated restrictions:

License plates ending in 1 or 2, totally restricted Mondays and partially Fridays.
License plates ending in 3 or 4, totally restricted Tuesdays and partially Mondays.
License plates ending in 5 or 6, totally restricted Wednesdays and partially Tuesdays.
License plates ending in 7 or 8, totally restricted Thursdays and partially Wednesdays.
License plates ending in 9 or 0, totally restricted Fridays and partially Thursdays.

News organizations reported that government employees would also start their day later, at 9 a.m., to try to ease congestion.

Circunvalación is one of the busiest roads in Costa Rica with 60,000 drivers every day.

Correction Thursday, Sept. 12, 9:57 a.m.: This post incorrectly stated that the first number of the license plate determined circulation restrictions. The last digit of the license plate indicates which days drivers have limited access to San José’s roads. 

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