We had the wonderful opportunity to travel around Guanacaste and Alejuela provinces over the holiday season with visiting friends and relatives. We have lived close to Tilarán for the last two years and have been visiting Costa Rica for a number of years, so we’ve seen marked improvements in the roads here. In the last couple of days, we also had the occasion to speak to friends who traveled south of San José over the holidays to the mountain areas inland of Dominical. In our travels and theirs, we were pleasantly surprised at the state of the roads. In some cases, they rivaled the condition of American roads.
The one exception was the section of Ruta 142, the Lake Arenal road, between the dam near La Fortuna and Canas. We have read several rants about the condition of this road, but this is a current observation of the state of the road in hopes that someone in authority will be able to provide a lasting solution to a chronic problem. Repeated temporary fixes will never provide the lasting results found elsewhere in Costa Rica.
A few years ago there was a major washout that isolated the north section of the lake community from Tilarán, which is the county seat and major commerce hub of the area. A bailey bridge was installed, and a permanent fix was in place about a year later. That section of road was never repaved. Recently, a similar landslide occurred between Nuevo Arenal and the dam. This section was paved but is extremely uneven and dangerous. The rest of the road is pockmarked with too many potholes to count, and a high number of these are so deep that serious damage is possible to a car whose driver misses sight of one, especially at night or in rainy weather. The result is the necessity of weaving all over the road at about 20 kph to avoid them.
One might say that this is commonplace when you consider the history of Costa Rican roads, but I think great improvements have been made except on this road. Yes, there are annual repairs but there are so many holes, it is easy to see the root cause of this particular problem: application of only 2 to 3 cms of asphalt over an inadequate base. Several sections of the road have been marked with white paint so you won’t drive on the part because it has washed out beneath and is unsupported.
Two days ago, we came across a motorcycle accident where the driver was unable to avoid one of these potholes and his passenger was injured so badly she was taken away by ambulance. This is only one minor example of the cost to life, health, and property that has resulted from the chronic condition of this road.
I implore someone in authority to please inspect this road, especially between Tilarán and the Arenal dam, so they can order a lasting repair. I asked a couple of friends why the road is never repaired properly and they both said that the contractors have no incentive to make a proper repair because they want the repair contract again the following year. Please someone tell me this is no longer true and the government will not allow this practice to continue. This is the only road we have seen that is a disgrace and a dangerous embarrassment to our wonderful country. Can someone please get it fixed for good?
John Erkan and Rita Pfeifer