Expert gives lawmakers highly critical report on Ruta 1856

The country’s newest highway, Ruta 1856 in northern Costa Rica, got a stinging review Tuesday before a legislative commission.

The summary came from Olman Vargas Zeledón, director of the Colegio de Ingenieros y Arquitectos. He said the stretch was badly planned, lacked drainage and was vulnerable to possible landslides.

He was appearing before the Comisión Permanente Especial de Control de Ingreso y Gasto Público. A full report on the roadway is due next week.

Vargas said the absence of adequate drainage was a key failing because the road is gravel. Without adequate plans for runoff, flowing water can carry away much of the road material, he said.

This is the stretch that figures in a series of bribery investigations. The road was built with direct contracts instead of competitive bidding because the central government was trying to provide quick access to an area that had been invaded by Nicaraguan soldiers.
Vargas said the road was like an accordion with variable widths ranging from 40 meters (131 feet) to just 10 to 14 (33 to 46 feet).

Vargas also talked about the slopes that he did not think were stabilized adequately and where they would be prone to slides during rainy weather.

The commission decided to meet again Tuesday to hear more about the roadway.

More than 200 judicial agents fanned out June 6 to pull off 41 simultaneous searches, the largest such police operation in history as part of the investigation over the road contracts. The 41 locations, mostly construction companies, were in 11 cantons, said the Poder Judicial. Specifically sought were receipts and accounting information relating to payments by the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad, the nation’s road agency.

The construction companies had received payments for 19 billion colons or about $38 million.

At least three public employees are suspected of receiving bribes from construction companies.

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