My wife and I have lived in Matapalo de Aguirre, which is about half way between Quepos and Dominical, for the past six years. Route 34, the Costanera as everyone around here calls it, was a rutted, sometimes almost impassible dirt road from Quepos to Dominical when we moved here. This section of the Costanera was subsequently paved in 2010.
What is WRONG with this highway which is now paved all the way from the Caldera highway down to Palmar Norte where it meets the intercarretera is the total lack of presence of tránsitos to enforce traffic laws. In the six years we have lived here the only time I have seen a tránsito anywhere between Quepos and Dominical other than when there is an accident is when they periodically set up a checkpoint by the airport in Quepos where they spend more time watching the planes land and take off than enforcing traffic laws and twice when they set up a checkpoint just west of the Rio Savegre by a little pueblo named Maritima. On our trips to Dominical or on down to Uvita I have only seen a tránsito once.
When we frequently have to go to San Jose for medical appointments or to catch a flight seldom do we ever see a tránsito. Occasionally, we see one on the Caldera highway parked in the shade under an overpass and occasionally in the Jacó/Herrudura area.
Whether we are simply going to Quepos on a weekly shopping trip and at times more often or traveling all the way to the Caldera, drivers constantly ignore the speed limit and throw caution to the wind. Today I had to go into Quepos, a distance of about 17 miles from the time I get onto the Costanera to where I turn off to go into town. I had already read today’s article so I purposely maintained a steady 85 kph. The speed limit ranges from 60 to 80 KPH. YES, I was speeding. When I got back home I had been passed by eight tractor/trailer rigs, three regular passenger buses, two motorcycles and 12 cars. The worst offenders are the Tracopa buses that run from San José to Panamá and back. Their speed in most instances has to be well over 100 kph. Passing a speeding tractor/trailer rig is nothing to those guys.
It is not uncommon to be passed by three or four vehicles at a time. When one pulls back into the lane, most often the others continue on until the lead vehicle pulls back into the lane with the others continuing until all have passed one another. This is not just between Matapalo and Quepos. It could be anywhere from Matapalo to the Caldera or on down south. Another danger are drivers maintaining 30 or 40 kph regardless of driving conditions often times belching smoke like an old fashion coal burning locomotive.
I will not even get into passing on blind curves or where on-coming traffic is forced to move to the side of the road to avoid a collision.
With no enforcement, drivers are free to ignore traffic laws with impunity, at least until they kill one another or injure one another sufficiently to warrant a tránsito magically appearing. I remember reading some time ago an article in A.M. Costa Rica that gave the strength of the tránsitos. I can’t remember the total strength but it does stick in my mind that there are only 165, maybe it is 185, effective members of the force. All the others are either in management or supervisory positions or else are assigned to mundane administrative duties in various offices.
Nothing is going to change along this highway or any other highway in Costa Rica until the tránsitos start getting out and doing what they have been hired to do.
Matapalo de Aguirre