Autopista environmental damage put at $40 million

Rocks and mudslides are not the only problems facing the concession holder for the Autopista del Sol.

A specialist in environmental matters said Tuesday that construction of the San José-Caldera highway caused $40 million in damage between Ciudad Colón and Orotina. The principal concern was the Barva aquifer, said the expert, Monserrat Solano López.

The testimony came before the special legislative commission that is investigating concessions awarded by the government to private firms. The autopista is one of these.

The aquifer is in La Guácima, and other environmental damages were claimed by the invasion by road builders of protected zones and mismanagement of trash. The witness testified that builders did not follow environmental plans that had been approved.

Meanwhile, the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said that the Consejo Nacional de Concesiones expected to receive today from the concession holder an analysis of problems and ways to solve them. The highway has been plagued by slides and collapses of the roadway due to the weather, and some say, incorrect engineering.

The problems that will be addressed in the document delivered today is at Kilometer 47. This is where twin bailey bridges have been installed over a section of roadway that slipped downhill. The autopista concession holder estimated that repairs here will take two months, the ministry said. The bridges are creating a perpetual traffic jam.

Next week analyses of three other locations where damage has taken place are expected, said the ministry. The ministry and the Consejo will be assisted in its evaluations by the Laboratorio Nacional de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales of the Universidad de Costa Rica. Also involved will be two firms contracted to study the problems.

The ministry also said that it would not accept the finished highway Oct. 28 as had been planned. It said too many problems remain, the ministry said.

Another highway, the Interamericana Norte at Cambronero or Kilometer 87, continues with a single-lane bailey bridge, the ministry noted. There are other problems along the key route from the Central Valley to the Pacific.

There are sections where the road collapsed and places where more culverts have to be installed, the ministry said in a written report.

However, the ministry did not note the erosion of work that had just been done at that point. This problem was noted by a resident, who took photos and sent them to A.M. Costa Rica.

In the same report, the minister, Francisco Jiménez, expressed his condolences and sorrow at the accident that killed a father and child Friday night on Ruta 32, the San José-Limón route. A boulder pancaked the car and critically injured the child’s mother. Jiménez said he expected to receive a diagnosis of what has to be done to make the route safer. He said that in some places the highway will be rerouted and in others shelters will be constructed. In addition investments will be made to improve the alternate route to Limón via Turrialba, he said.

Engineers have been studying Ruta 32 for weeks.

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