Price tag still unknown for plan to put streetcars in San José

This is not your grandfather's streetcar. The modernistic vehicle is superimposed on a photo of Avenida 2 between Parque Central and the Teatro Popular Melico Salazár. Municipalidad de San José graphic

San José will have a public metro system that will reduce inner city traffic. That is if all continues to go well, said Mayor Johnny Araya Monge Tuesday.

The mayor was at a presentation about a study made to analyze the possible streetcar project at the Municipalidad of San José. The 10-kilometer metro system, approximately 6.2 miles, is a project to encourage better living in the city, he said.

Although there is no set budget or ball park figure for the project yet, leaders in the transportation industry are optimistic and supportive that system will add to the modernity of San José. Araya was joined by Fabrice Delloye, the ambassador of France in Costa Rica, Rodrigo Rivera Fournier, vice minister of Obras Públicas y Transporte, Miguel Carabaguíaz, executive director of the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles. Vice President Luis Liberman joined the panel later.

The tram or streetcar system is supposed to run from east to west, from the Estación del Atlántico near Parque Nacional to a station in Pavas. The proposed route is supposed to run from Avenida 3, Paseo de las Damas, cross the Calle 11 bridge and pass by Parque Morazán. From there it will hook onto Calle 5, head south and make a right onto Avenida Segunda. It will then connect to Paseo Colón crossing the Calle 14 intersection. From Paseo Colón the route will head toward the Bulevar las Américas where it passes by the north side of Parque la Sabana and the Estado Nacional. It will then pass by the south end of the park to the Bulevar de Pavas and continue past the U.S. Embassy until the terminal in Pavas.

However, the route is subject to change, officials said.

The city has just initiated phase two of the process, which is the part where the consulting companies figure out preliminary design and evaluation. This phase is where the construction cost, tram rate, and route will be established. This phase ends at the end of May or early June. It won’t be until phase two is complete that a cost will be known, said officials.
“We should have patience for the cost . . . . It’s too premature to know numbers,” said Liberman.

France is a proud sponsor according to Delloye. The French government has donated 360 million colons to the project. The consultation companies running the projects, SYSTRA and EGIS, are both from France.

Since Nov. 3 last year, the consulting firms have done research to complete phase one, defining the project. Their staffers did a survey where they talked to more than 8,800 bus patrons on 150 different bus routes, and counted cars during peak hours between 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. The analyses resulted in the firm’s confidence that a metro system is necessary for two main reasons. The first is for the need for interurban transportation. The second is for better access to work. There also will be an estimated 150,000 passengers per day on the tram, the firms reported.

San José has catered more toward business and work rather than a place to live, and it is a commuter city, said Araya. He added that it’s time for the city’s orientation to change.

This new tram system in San Jose will “modernize aesthetically and culturally” said Rivera, the vice minister.

“Costa Rica pertains to the modern world . . . . It’s evident Costa Rica deserves a tranvía,” said Delloye, using the Spanish word for streetcar.

The tram system will work as a branch of the rail institute, so there will be no competition between the means of public transportations, said Carabaguíaz.

Instead rail service and the tram system will compliment each other, said Araya. The new system shouldn’t take away from the train system money because the tram system is supposed to be urban, unlike the rail system that functions more for residents outside the metro area, said Carabaguíaz.

“This project compliments the effort that INCOFER does,” said Carabaguíaz, using the acronym for the institute.

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