The Municipality of San José is moving forward with the feasibility studies required to open a streetcar system for the capital, designed to ease traffic and make it easier to get around the city.
The new streetcar route would extend for 10 kilometers between Pavas, west of the capital, and the Atlantic Train Station, just east of downtown. The route would have 16 stops and run alongside main downtown streets such as the Paseo Colón and Second Avenue.
Mayor Johnny Araya said the city is currently in the process of hiring a consulting firm to conduct feasibility and cost studies for the project, initially estimated at some $200 million. The selected firm would have to take into account the results of a study conducted in 2012, during Araya’s previous term at the Municipality. The studies should be ready within seven weeks after the public bid is granted.
The Municipality does not have legal authorization to carry out public transportation projects, but the goal is to propose the project to the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT).
Public Works Minister Carlos Villalta has said he believes the Ministry would prioritize the streetcar plan if the results of the feasibility studies are positive. Villalta noted, however, that those studies should include an updated assessment on passenger demand in San José.
He also recommended submitting the project for consultation with the Costa Rican Railroad Institute (INCOFER) to verify that the streetcar project will not interfere with other projects from that agency.
See an animated video of the proposed plan outlined in 2012:
The streetcar project is not a new one for longtime mayor Araya.
In 2012, the French government donated an initial feasibility study that estimated the $200 million cost of opening the streetcar system. At the time the plan was to finance the project through a public alliance between the Executive branch and the municipality to create a trust fund.
Araya stepped down his post in June 2013 to run for the presidency of Costa Rica with the National Liberation Party. Following his departure, Mayor Sandra García tabled the project until she left office last May.
Now, back in the mayor’s seat, Araya has made the project a priority once again.
His plan is to present the initiative as a complement to an INCOFER plan to implement electric train service that will connect the four provinces in the Central Valley: Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago and San José.
The streetcars will be 100 percent electric and will reduce CO2 emissions in San José expelled by some 20,000 buses and more than 300,000 vehicles that enter the city everyday, according to MOPT.
San José had a streetcar service for 51 years between 1899 and 1950. One of those streetcars is currently on display at Pueblo Antiguo, at the National Amusement Park.