Warn Of More Disasters For Failing Road Network
Although the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT) and the CONAVI recognize the problem faced at many bridges, they say there is not much they can do against the forces of nature.
However, the experts disagree and warn that what happened on the Interamericana Norte Wednesday night, when the raging waters of the Rio Seco washed away a part of the road, will become common plan in the near future.
Damaged beams, holes in the pavement and in rotted wood are all common in many bridges around the country, an infrastructure that has suffered decades of neglect by previous administrations.
The experts say that that is the dark reality of the situation that could easily turn any bridge into the October 22, 2009 tragedy when the suspension bridge over the Turrucares river gave way under the weight of a bus and the February 1, 2010, Rio Lagarto.
In both cases, faulty structure and a faulty road network were the determining factors.
At least 300 bridges in Costa Rica, says the Colegio de Ingenieros y Arquitectos, have serious problems and need to be repaired immediately. However, the MOPT has only identified 15 and has begun “temporary” work to repair.
The Colegio de Ingenieros y Arquitectos was responsible for the closure of the San José – Caldera after convincing MOPT minister, Francisco Jiménez, of the dangers of the autopista.
It appears that nature is going head-to-head with the government, challenging its resources and not forgiving the neglect of the past.
In the case of Rio Seco, some 5.000 cubic metres of earth had to be dumped into the gaping hole to shore up the part of the road that was washed away, leaving behind a crater of more than 20 metres in depth.
Fortunately, good weather conditions on Thursday allowed work crews to finish ahead of time and re-open the highway in record time.
Minister Jiménes says that focusing on prevention rather than reacting to disasters is what is needed. However, the CONAVI contradicts the minister and assures that no one can predict where nature will strike, nor even think in mitigation measures.
One thing that everyone agrees on though, is that the national road network is in trouble and the damages are costing millions not only in the repairs, but in terms of production and Costa Rica’s number source of income, tourism.
The collapse of the Interamericana this past week meant hotel room cancellations in Guanacaste, the prime tourism area and products sitting in trucks waiting for the roadway to be rebuilt.