During the last two years, the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT) shelved the recommendations that a group of experts made for the expansion plan of the road to Caldera – the Ruata 27 -which would allow the decongestion of this important 77 km highway to the Pacific coast.

The Ruta 27 was officially opened in January 2010.

In 2016, a commission composed of the Federated Association of Engineers and Architects, (CFIA), the Costa Rican Chamber of Construction, the National Laboratory of Materials and Structural Models (Lanamme), the National Council of Roads (Conavi) and others studied the preliminary the Globalvia (concessionaire of the route) proposal, to increase the number of lanes.

The analysis was based on a request from the National Concessions Council (CNC), a decentralized body of the MOPT, which must decide on the expansion of this road given in concession.

The 2014 proposal was to enable three lanes in each direction between La Sabana and Ciudad Colón, and four in each direction from Ciudad Colón to Caldera for an approximate cost of US$400 million at that time.

Currently, the road, that starts at the southeast end of La Sabana is four lanes (two in each direction), expanding to six lanes from the Escazu tolls to Multiplaza, returning to four lanes to the Cuidad Colon (Santa Ana) tolls and then two lanes, with intermittent four lanes at a few points along the way to Orotina and Caldera.

The use of this road has reached the maximum. Built for a traffic volume of 25,000 vehicles daily average, it was three times that in less than 12 months in use. At the Escazú toll, Globalvia reports a traffic volume of 116,000 vehicles a day.

One of the major stumbling blocks to the expansion, besides political will and financial constraints, a group of experts recommended to the CNC, before making a decision, to ask Globalvia to present a definitive solution for the collapse at kilometer 44. The experts also want Globalviaa to elaborate on “extensive” geotechnical and structural studies, plans of the future toll stations and traffic projections.

At kilometer 44 of the road between San José and Caldera, a large crack that crosses the road was detected months ago, the problem grows according to Lanamme’s reports and is caused by the instability of the land in that area. Photo of Warren Campos

In addition, they warned that there is a lack of information on the unstable slopes and that it should be defined if the concessionaire will assume the expansion of the five major bridges, since those structures were the responsibility of the State, built by MOPT prior to the concession contract and the road that was finally inaugurated in 2010.

The crack that crosses the via Caldera

The Ruta 27 had been in the development stage for almost three decades. Contracts with several companies to build the road came and went, through which the five bridges, two lanes each, were built based on the traffic projections made in the 1980s. The bridges today are one of the major congestion points between Cuidad Colon and Orotina.

The new minister of Transport, Rodolfo Méndez Mata, said the expert recommendations will be taken into account when the government starts its negotiations with Globalvia slated for next month, on August 16, the 100th day of the government of Carlos Alvarado.

“It does not mean that the negotiation is going to be resolved in a week, but we are going to start before the 100 days (of government) are fulfilled,” said Méndez Mata.

Millionaire tolls. A sore point for most users, in particular truckers,  are the “excessive” tolls for a highway that can be best described as a cantonal road.

According to data from the CNC, in March alone Globalvia collected US$6.4 million dollars in the nine toll booths that it has along the 77 km of the road.

The collection stations in Escazú are the ones that generate the most money, US$2.1 million collected in March alone. The tolls at Atenas and San Rafael de Alajuela follow with US$$1.3 million each in that month.

In the first three months of 2018, the tolls paid by users amount to US$18.7 million dollars.

Globalvia has a 25-year concession to operate and maintain the Ruta 27, beginning in 2008. The concession contract is for US$301 million, of which, as of March 2016, US$136.5 million had been paid.

Source (in Spanish): La Nacion