Train’s arrival to put Cartago motorists on their toes

A valley train locomotive pauses at the Cartago rail station on an earlier trip to check out the trackage. Regular passenger service starts at 5:30 a.m. Friday. Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes

When regular train service begins Friday between Cartago and San José, motorists will have some help in avoiding collisions.

The transport ministry has installed 40 free-standing signs near the tracks and also has painted 28 warnings on the roads approaching the tracks.

A train on a test run already inflicted heavy body damage on a taxi in Cartago, and the experience in San José shows that there is a learning curve for motorists who face rail crossings without automatic gates that block the right-of-way. There have been deaths as a result of collisions since the valley railway went into service.

Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes photo This is one of the painted warnings that tell motorists the train track is ahead.

Even though train engineers are heavy on the whistle, many motorists have their windows rolled up and are listening to music as they drive. There have been many close brushes, too.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said it has put 3.8 billion colons or about $7.7 million into helping the Instituto Costarricense Ferrocarriles rebuild the line from Curridabat.

The ministry also noted that service to Alajuela Centro is expected to begin in the first half of next year.

The trains went out of service in 1998, and the trackage fell into disrepair. When the rail institute extends the line, work crews usually have to replace the entire track bed, the ties and the rails. The wooden ties have given way to concrete versions.

As is usually the case when the rail line is extended, there was a ceremony and a band in Cartago Wednesday for the inaugural run with government officials. The new route certainly will have heavy usage in the first days of August for the religious gathering at the basilica of Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles in Cartago. This is the destination of many pilgrims who will still hike there over the last days of July for the Aug. 2 morning service.

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