Commuters prevail despite big hole in highway

Consejo de Vialidad photo Workmen excavate under the General Cañas highway bailey bridge to install a new culvert

Central Valley residents showed their resilience Thursday as they confronted a collapsed section in a key highway.

With some local exceptions, traffic appeared to be moving reasonable well Thursday. Passengers on the Heredia-San José line jumped 30 percent to 10,000 for the day. Taxi drivers said that a diversion at the problem site kept westbound traffic moving on the General Cañas highway, Ruta 1.

The Ministerio de Obras Pública y Transportes said that a bailey bridge over the collapsed section of the highway should be in operation by noon today. The bridge already had been installed Thursday, but the structure is about 90 centimeters, nearly three feet, higher than the roadway. Work crews were constructing ramps as others were installing the bridge deck.

Meanwhile, other workers were below the bridge excavating the steel culvert that failed late Tuesday when heavy rains drove a tree trunk into the 30-year-old pipe. The plan is to install two pipes, each about 10 feet in diameter. The collapsed section spans nearly two traffic lanes.
The bailey bridge, developed during World War II, is a mainstay of the emergency plans of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, the road agency. Bridge sections can be bolted together to span great distances.

The ministry and its Consejo were trying to open a stretch of road from the Caldera highway, Ruta 27, to El Coyol, which is on the highway west of the Juan Santamaría airport. Some motorists are avoiding the General Cañas highway altogether and using Ruta 27 to reach the airport and points west on Ruta 1 via Santa Ana and Belén. Traffic on that road was normal Thursday night.

The temporary fix that got traffic moving again was installing a westbound lane in one of the two eastbound lanes. Workers successfully chopped through the highway’s concrete barrier Wednesday night to allow westbound vehicles to travel some 300 meters on one of the eastbound lanes.

What transport officials are called a bypass is in operation from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m., they said.

There was less highway traffic Thursday, too, as many workers telecommuted and education officials closed many schools in the Central Valley.

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