Ruta 1856, which was designed to be a symbolic confrontation with Nicaragua now seems to be a growing scandal.
The central government has suspended work by private firms in the wake of bribery allegations. Now workers of the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes will do the job, officials said.
Meanwhile, more allegations of wrongdoing are surfacing, mainly with the illegal use of gravel for private access roads along the stretch of public road.
Inheriting the situation is Luis Llach, who was just named acting minister. He said Tuesday that 30 pieces of heavy equipment belonging to the ministry have been at work on the project and that these will be augmented by 30 more next week.
The former minister lost his job last Friday because two of his
staff members are being investigated on the bribery allegation. He was fired for lack of oversight, not because there is any indication he was involved in illegality.
Contractors on the job also have complained of not being paid for months.
Llach said the highway is a priority and that materials experts might be called in to check the work of some contractors. There have been allegations of shoddy work.
The highway was envisioned as a response to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. That country owns the adjacent Río San Juan and has restricted use by Costa Ricans. Without the new highway, the river is the only viable route for traffic.
In addition to adopting the number 1856, the highway is called “Juan Rafael Mora Porras.” He was the president that engineered the defeat of the U.S.-led filibuster force in 1856.