Belén rail line readied for stadium inauguration

The Belén line joins the valley route to Curridabat and Universidad Latina and the San José-Heredia spur. Photo: A.M. Costa Rica

Train service between Belén and San José will have a jump start Saturday when the new line carries spectators for the inaugural of the $100 million Estadio Nacional.

Saturday there are speeches by former president Óscar Aria Sánchez as well as President Laura Chinchilla, a Chinese representative and fireworks. That is all before the soccer game between the Costa Rican national team and a Chinese team.

The train also will be running to take spectators back home at 10 p.m. The service from Belén will be in advance of the inauguration of that line April 4. Regular passenger service will begin April 4, said the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles Tuesday.

The train service will be a supplement to an army of buses that have been enlisted to carry spectators because the 35,000-seat stadium only has room to park 400 cars. Traffic police and public officials are expecting chaos, and residents of the area are either going to be unhappy because of all the cars or will make a few colons by renting parking space. The entire Sabana Norte neighborhoods are expected to be jammed with vehicles.

Officials said they would block off access to Parque la Sabana to keep motorists from parking on the grass.

Arias will not have to drive or take the train. He lives just a few blocks away.

The Estadio Nacional inauguration will run for days.

Ms. Chinchilla will take a ceremonial ride on the Belén train April 1. Miguel Carabaguíaz, president of the rail agency, said that Belén train services would be available for other activities at the stadium.

He also said that regular service would provide a train every 15 minutes during peak hours.

The Authoridad Reguladora de Servicios Públicos has approved a 350-colon fee for a one-way trip. That’s about 71 U.S. cents. Rail officials expect the trip between Belén and San José to take about 35 minutes.

The rail agency has spent about $200,000 repairing the trackage to Belén. In some cases heavy machinery had to be called in to demolish structures that had invaded the right-of-way. Some rails had been stolen, and many crossties had to be repaired or replaced. In addition, the rail institute purchased six more cars from the Spanish Ferrocarriles Españoles de Vía Estrecha. These have arrived and will also be used to provide additional service on the San José-Heredia line, said Carabaguíaz.

After the Friday inaugural, the next big stadium event is Sunday where there is foot racing, and the finish line of the Costa Rica marathon. Races start at 8 a.m., and the marathon begins at noon.

Tuesday is the 8 p.m. soccer game between the Costa Rican national team and Argentina. Gates open at 4 p.m.

Wednesday the symphonies take over. The Orquestra Sinfónica begins at 7 p.m. The Banda Sinfónica Juvenil plays at 7:30 p.m. The Orquestra Sinfónica Juvenil plays at 8 p.m. The 75-piece Orquestra Sinfónica Nacional and the 90-voice Coro Sinfónica Nacional are scheduled for 9 p.m.

Thursday, March 31, Hanna Gabriel leads a card of boxing. The Tica world champion faces Melisenda Perez of the United States in the final of seven matches.

Friday, April 1 is a night of music with Lubin Barahona and the Caballeros de Ritmo along with groups like Marfil and Son de Tikizia.

Saturday, April 2, is the Festival de Música Nacional with the likes of Editus, Evolución and other groups from 1 to 11 p.m.

Sunday, April 10, is the 7 p.m. concert with the Colombian singer Shakira preceded by Costa Rican artists.

The stadium was a gift from the People’s Republic of China and imported Chinese works with a lot of imported Chinese materials were used in the construction. Communist China made the gift because Arias and his administration stopped diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

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