Burden of highway mess falling on motorists

The public will again pay the price for deficiencies in highway maintenance. The impact of closing a section of the Circunvalación for two months will mean more metro traffic jams, changed work hours for some public employees and more hours when passenger cars are forbidden on the roads.

The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said Wednesday afternoon that the washout between Hatillo 8 and the Pavas exit on the four-lane road was too unstable to allow traffic.

This is the spot where the ministry’s Consejo Nacional de Vialidad installed four bailey bridges to carry the traffic. Motorists had to live with a week of lane restrictions on the key highway.

Tuesday’s rain cause the Río María Aguilar to swell. That river eroded the road. The washout became larger, and experts from the Universidad de Costa Rica said that the bailey bridges were unsafe. The road was closed temporarily Tuesday and permanently Wednesday.

The ministry said that the bridges will be removed and the soil beneath shored up. Workers are expected to install pilings. Then the bridges will be replaced. Officials estimated that this will take two months. Then work will continue rebuilding the spillway under the road. That was what washed out originally causing the erosion.

Officials also are examining other spillways on the highway. Most were constructed of large-diameter corrugated pipes, which are at the end of their useful life.

In addition to traffic jams and difficulties navigating the metro area, motorists also will face additional restrictions based on their license plate. Each personal vehicle already is prohibited from traveling in the metro area one day a week,  based on the last digit of the l icense plate. Now officials want to extend that prohibition to  another weekday when the vehicles will be barred during peak traffic hours in the morning and evening.

The ministry is sending 120 traffic officers into the streets today to enforce the prohibitions and direct traffic. Fuerza Pública officers also have been asked to  help.

In another effort to reduce rush hour traffic, the ministry said that public employees no longer will start work at 7 a.m. Instead they will arrive a 9 a.m. That comment has not been supported yet by official action by the Presidencia, but the Ministerio de Educación Pública said school times will remain as they are, normally 7 a.m.

The ministry also has not officially released details on the second day of vehicle prohibition. The Circunvalación is a major bypass route that runs from la Uruca to San Pedro along the southern edge of the metro area.

September and October are rainy months, so the weather may change the ministry’s plans.

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