San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Public infrastructure

Renegotiated San Ramón-San José highway expansion signed into law

With the stroke of his pen, President Luis Guillermo Solís signed Law 9292 Monday, re-launching the long stalled San Ramón highway expansion after years of protests that rocked the administration of former President Laura Chinchilla (2010-2014).

The project promises to expand the highway to eight lanes in some sections, easing traffic woes on the congested section of the Inter-American Highway for commuters, businesses and foreign visitors traveling to and from the airport. The expansion has long been listed as the most critical infrastructure investment in the country.

Monday’s signing ceremony in San Ramón was also a victory for opponents who had battled to revoke the original concession granted to the Brazilian contractor OAS. They said that contract was too expensive and the result of backroom deals.

The law Solís signed creates a trust funded with the profits from state agencies, like the National Insurance Institute, public banks and pension operators, to finance the $473 million price tag for the expansion. That price is $51 million less than the original $542 million proposed by OAS in its bid.

Alongside Public Works and Transport Minister Carlos Segnini, Vice President Ana Helena Chacón and a collection of lawmakers, Solís said that the highway expansion would be the first in a series of important infrastructure projects that the country needed to launch, including an electric train in the San José Grater Metropolitan Area and a highway expansion to Cartago, among others.

The project will expand the traffic-choked section of the Inter-American highway between San José and Juan Santamaría International Airport to eight lanes, and to four lanes from the airport to San Ramón. The tolls along the 58-kilometer distance between the capital and San Ramón will total 3,500 colones ($6.50) round trip. Some 84,000 drivers are expected to use the highway every day, the daily La Nación reported.

A map with the highway expansion between San José, Juan Santamaría International Airport and San Ramón, Alajuela. The purple section will expand to six lanes; the turquoise to eight lanes; and the red section to four.

(Courtesy Casa Presidencial)

The original OAS concession was supposed to offer a cash-strapped government the ability to expand the highway with no money down. But citizen groups, most notably the Foro de Occidente, lambasted the project, alleging that the deal was opaque at best and corrupt at worst.

Facing sustained protests over the higher tolls and perceived conflict of interest within her administration, Chinchilla announced that the government would annul the road concession to OAS in April 2013. In March 2014, the government settled with the Brazilian contractor, agreeing to pay the contractor $35 million in damages.

The law signed Monday by President Solís was the result of a proposal put forward by the Foro de Occidente and negotiated with the government. Solís celebrated the group’s efforts as a paragon of democratic organization.

“The symbolism of San Ramón goes far beyond just a highway. This is an extraordinary canton in terms of the social movements of this country,” Solís said to a crowd in San Ramón. “Sovereignty lies with the people and it’s the people who give their leaders to right to govern.”

The San Ramón expansion was not the only major infrastructure project that moved forward in Costa Rica on Monday. Lawmakers approved another major financing deal for a $395 million Chinese loan to fund the lion’s share of the $465 million Route 32 highway expansion between San José and Limón.

Contact Zach Dyer at zdyer@ticotimes.net

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John

As usual, the previous post gets it mostly wrong.
By regulation, buses in Costa Rica must be 15 years old or newer.
In fact, an accelerated tax write-offs is given for the first four years of a new bus’s life, to encourage a fast turnover of the fleet.
Proposals now are being considered to relax this, in order to translate into slightly lower bus fares, also set by regulation according to a formula which includes purchase price of new buses.
The difference between the bus fleet in San Jose and the black smoke-spewing buses of 10 years ago is dramatic.
Bus drivers are occasionally robbed here, as happens more in many other Latin American countries. But I’ve lived here 30 years, and have never been on one that was robbed, and don’t fear that when boarding a bus.
Trains running into cars every other week is a made-up statistic. Yes, there are crashes because of the lack of lights at crossings, but not many.
Eventually, crossings will get flashing lights and gates, as is the case in the U.S. at crossings where traffic reaches a certain volume.
But remember that rejuvenation of train service is relatively recent in Costa Rica.
“Average” Costa Ricans do not live on $2 a day. Another made-up statistic.
Costa Rica’s government has corruption, but all governments do, as do corporations, and again, Costa Rica’s is better than others in Central America.

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John

This road project is much better than the one which was cancelled after protests, although there may still be a bit of a bottleneck in a few years at the ‘platina’ bridge if it is only widened to three lanes each way (from the present two) and the highway is four. Hopefully, the bridge can be widened to four lanes as well.
The Costa Rica bus system throughout the country, in my experience, is relatively good, and electrifying the GAM train service should be an additional infrastructure improvement.
A subway in San Jose would be prohibitively expensive, for relatively little gain. San Jose does not (at least yet) have the widespread gridlock and other traffic problems which made a subway at least somewhat practical for Panama City, and completion of the ring road and more bus routes which avoid the downtown area should keep traffic problems from getting worse.

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Ben

John the bus system is really old and some of the buses on the road are from 1970 and every other week Bus drivers are robbed at gun point because CR goverment does not want to use a better system the train system is so bad that every other week trains run into cars because of no gates. John your living is some other place new road and more tolls are not going to help the average Costa Rican that live on 2 dollars a day. John don´t you get it CR goverment screws up everything because they are corupt.

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Ben

There it is roads and not a national bus system or a subway system. I guess the rich got to the president and now this money will go in PLN friends pocket.

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