President Luis Guillermo Solís has become the third president to promise to fix the bridge over the Virilla River known by Ticos as “La Platina,” located on the most heavily trafficked roadway into the country’s capital.
Solís promised Thursday that “the work will be done in 12 months.”
Problems with a section of the metal mesh on the infamous bridge earned it its nickname in 2008, and officials from three separate administrations have since made unsuccessful attempts to repair the structure — at a total cost of some $13 million, according to the National Roadway Council.
Solís follows former presidents Oscar Arias and Laura Chinchilla in promising to fix and expand the narrow, bumpy bridge that handles some 90,000 cars daily.
The bridge is on the General Cañas Highway, the main route connecting the capital with the province of Alajuela — including the Juan Santamaría International Airport — and Costa Rica’s northern and Pacific regions.
La Platina has caused headaches and tragedies for drivers and officials alike since at least 2009.
In 2011 the head of the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT)’s bridges department lost her job after failing to solve the problem. In 2010 MOPT filed a legal complaint against a Portuguese company that performed some of the failed repairs to the bridge.
“This project has been tangled up for a long time,” Solís said Thursday at a news conference held under La Platina.
The current project has an estimated cost of $13.7 million and was awarded in a public bid to private contractor Codocsa. It includes reinforcing the structure and expanding the bridge from four to six lanes.
Public Works and Transport Minister Carlos Villalta Villegas said construction work won’t affect vehicle passage during the first eight months of the project since work will be performed under the bridge to reinforce the structure and place supports for the two new lanes. “We will eventually close passage at nights for very specific work,” he said.
Vehicle passage over the bridge during the final four months will be restricted, as crews will begin replacing the road’s surface using prefabricated concrete slabs.
Villalta urged the public’s confidence that “this will be the definitive solution for this bridge.”
Watch a video (in Spanish) with an explanation of the project.