Drivers warned to stay off Ruta 32 during the night

Transport officials are clear: Stay off Ruta 32 in the night particularly when there is rain.

This is the troubled San José-Guápiles highway where a steep cliff on one side has been crumbling as the road passes through Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo. This is the main highway to Limón from the capital.

Another large quantity of rock and dirt gave way Sunday night and closed the highway. At first there were fears that vehicles were trapped in the slide. The resulting debris was 150 feet wide and 25 feet high.

Highway officials opened the road between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. Tuesday, mainly so the backup of tractor-trailers could continue on their route. Then after more cleanup, the roadway opened about 3 p.m.

The slide Sunday happened during the first few rainy days of the season, suggesting that many more slides are likely.

Last year, officials put a monitoring station at places where slides were likely. That generally is the area before and after the Zurquí tunnel. A television cameraman shot video of a large slide tearing down the mountain.

Now the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said clearly that officials recommend that motorists do not drive through the zone because of the high level of danger before possible new landslides and the persistent rain.

This route and the San José-Caldera autopista were trouble spots until the rains let up in December. Officials generally agree that Ruta 32 needs some major rebuilding. They have been critical of the design that basically runs a major highway along a ledge with a steep cliff to the west and a steep dropoff to the east.

Officials are recommending a longer, slower Ruta 10 through Turrialba for trips to Limón during rain. However, that road is narrower and more difficult for drivers of large trucks.

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