San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Public infrastructure

It worked: Lawmakers approve San José-San Ramón Highway construction bill, saving taxpayers $51 million

Just hours after President Luis Guillermo Solís stalled 19 bills to prioritize the passage of one, lawmakers on Tuesday evening approved a bill that authorizes reconstruction of a highway between San José and San Ramón.

A majority of 47 legislators approved in a first round of voting Bill #18,887, which authorizes the creation of a trust funded by public agencies and banks to generate the estimated $473 million cost of the project.

The public advocacy group Foro de Occidente had proposed to lawmakers in the Assembly’s Economic Affairs Commission an initiative that would obtain financial resources from reserves, profits or surpluses generated by state agencies – including public banks, the National Insurance Institute and pension operators.

Construction of the highway is estimated to last four years and generate toll income at a rate of ₡3,500 ($6.50) per motorist for the full route.

In its first stage, the project would expand lanes. A second stage calls for the design and construction of new lanes.

If the bill is passed, the 57-kilometer highway will be widened to eight lanes from San José to the Juan Santamaría International Airport. From there to the crossing at Manolo’s in La Garita, the route will stretch to six lanes; from La Garita to San Ramón it will have four lanes.

The project includes construction of new bridges and repairs to existing ones and overpasses, and the building of four smaller roads to connect the highway to Sarchí, Naranjo and Río Segundo in Alajuela, as well as Heredia.

The Foro de Occidente submitted the project as an alternative to the original $524 million plan by Brazilian company OAS, which won the contract on a public bid.

OAS left the country last year after the government in 2013 terminated the contract under pressure from residents who were angry that rates at the proposed toll stations were too expensive. The government last year paid OAS $35 million in compensation for the cancelled concession.

To enter into force the bill must be approved in a second round of voting and then published in the official newspaper La Gaceta.

Following the vote, President Solís thanked lawmakers and celebrated in several messages on his Twitter account:

Contact L. Arias at

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Already one of the most expensive countries in Latin America, all that’s needed is another source of revenue for the government and a foreign contractor.
With high import duties, foreign built toll roads, High fuel costs, income tax, business tax, multiple auto fees, 13% sales tax and per capita a government larger than Greece’s.
Add to that the layers of inefficient bureaucracy and everyone should be happy about saving a mythical $51 million.
Probably won’t bother the rich gringos, politicians and wealthy but what about the average Tico? These things severely affect their lives. The government can’t build roads using the vast amount of tax revenue they suck out of the people? They have to go in debt to a foreign nation for 50 years and let them suck money out of Costa Rica. Shameful.

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More Tax´s and fee´s to pay to drive in CR. The goverment of Costa Rica is now not getting anything that is going on in CR.

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Ken Morris

As an anti-motorist, I agree with your sentiment. I totally hate to see tax dollars to go to bigger and better roads.

However, I’m noting that this is to be a toll road, and while I don’t know how the numbers work (or whether they do work), I’m more forgiving of motorist-financed roads. If the motorists are going to pay for it, what do I care?

Also, even as anti-motorist, I appreciate that good roads have a place in economic development. I’m not sure I agree with the emphasis that the IMF and others place on roads–I think it’s overdone–but I’m pretty sure that roads are important. Although I don’t drive, I get my groceries and mail trucked in on roads, so even I benefit to some extent from good roads. Then too, when I call an ambulance I want it to come quickly.

My sense is that each road project should be evaluated on its own merits, and this one may pass the test. I’m not sure since I don’t know the details, but my knee jerk is to suspect that this may be a road deal we want–even if in general we don’t like roads.

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