Transport minister asked for patience over road woes

The public works minister is asking patience of citizens because the highways are not back in shape yet.

The minister, Francisco Jiménez Reyes, put out a newspaper column Monday in which he sought to explain why repairs to the nation’s roads are taking so long. He said fixing the estimated 2,000 kilometers of damaged road is not something the ministry can do overnight.

Repeating statistics reported by the ministry last week, Jiménez noted that Tropical Storm Tomas did heavy damage to 28 percent of the nation’s highways and that 8.5 percent of the national highways still were blocked or otherwise out of service.

He pledged that his ministry, the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes, would come up with definitive and permanent solutions that would make highway users comfortable. He also promised to seek aesthetic solutions. To do that he said a group of engineers is taking an inventory of all the damage and proposing solutions for the blocked roads and the damaged bridges.

Jiménez said that initially the job was to take care of emergencies. Now, he promised, the roadways will be fixed so that a similar disaster does not happen again.

He noted that the tourism industry, the banana growers, the pineapple producers, coffee growers and transport workers were depending on solutions.

If the heavy rains blew out a drainage system of one meter
in diameter, workers will not install a pipe of the same size to have it blown out next year, he said. If a roadway was washed away, his ministry will build deeper gutters, and if the highway was covered by a landslide, workers will reduce the hillside as well as recarpet the stretch, he said.

Jiménez maintains that the entire Pacific coast was now open to traffic, although there are some stretches in gravel and at other points where the roadways are one lane. He noted that his ministry was spending 100 million colons a day on rented equipment. That is nearly $200,000. He also said he was grateful that the legislature had allocated a special sum of 23 billion colons or about $46 million to initiate repairs.

Meanwhile, the Interamericana Sur still is closed due to slides and undermined roadways between Palmar Norte and Paso Real. Elsewhere ministry workers and those associated with the Consejo de Vialidad are replacing washed out bridges with temporary metal bailey bridges. The ministry said Friday that it had purchased $8.5 million in bridges.

The Policía de Tránsito reported that access has been restored between Nosara and Hojancha on the Nicoya peninsula and that the Acosta-Aserrí roadway is now open and operating normally. That is south of San José. However, the Acosta-Palmichal road still is closed due to slides.

The Quepos-Manuel Antonio link is reported to still be out of service. The road fell away in a slide. But a secondary route is operating between the two communities.

The country still has more than 15 bridges that are damaged or collapsed and a handful of rural roads that remain closed due to slides.

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