Lawmakers to discuss San José-Cartago highway expansion

September 2, 2014

Starting this week, legislators will begin discussing proposals for an expansion of the Florencio del Castillo Highway, the main route connecting the eastern sector of the capital with the province of Cartago.

Two lawmakers recently filed separate proposals for the project that both call for a two-stage plan to expand the highway to three lanes. They also seek construction of a new three-kilometer stretch of road connecting the Zapote roundabout with the end of the highway in the San José canton of Curridabat. The main difference between the two proposals is financing.

Christian Democratic Alliance Party lawmaker Mario Redondo Poveda drafted one of the proposals that seeks financing from a $450 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). That loan currently is under negotiation with Costa Rica’s executive branch.

Redondo told The Tico Times that the original drafting of the IDB loan included $22 million for the highway project, but a more recent version redirected those funds to another roadway project in the northern zone.

“Cartago residents face huge traffic jams every day, and now the funds are assigned to a roadway project in a rural area, where vehicle transit is significantly lower,” he said.

A group of residents from Curridabat and Cartago last week protested by partially blocking the highway in an effort to pressure lawmakers to restore the funds for Cartago, as originally stated in the loan.

The protesters delivered Public Works and Transport Minister Carlos Segnini a request signed by 10,000 residents from both provinces. Segnini expressed disapproval of the protest, but added that officials are reviewing possible solutions for the highway’s traffic jams.

“Demonstrating on the streets [and] blocking transit isn’t going to help resolve this. I can’t rob a bank or build a road with a magic wand,” Segnini said last week.

Redondo’s proposal will be discussed starting Tuesday in the Assembly’s Finance Commission.

Broad Front Party lawmaker Francisco Camacho Leiva last week also filed a bill proposing the highway expansion, but he believes the project should be financed by a trust fund supported by resources from public banks, government agencies and municipalities.

Camacho’s initiative will be discussed by members of a special legislative commission addressing Cartago issues likely starting next week, Jens Pfeiffer-Kramer, a member of Camacho’s office, said.

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