Traffic nightmare to continue for two more weeks

Central Valley residents have about two more weeks to suffer through what has been a major environmental and financial disaster.

The Consjeo Nacional de Vialidad said that the four temporary bridges would be in place this weekend over the washout in the Circunvalación. Additional work is needed to construct ramps and make other accommodations before private motor vehicles are allowed in the 55-meter (180.5 -foot) structures. Estimated date that the bridges will be in service is Nov. 17, said the Consejo.

Officials began to close the key four-lane highway Aug. 26 when it became obvious that the Río María Aguilar was undermining the roadbed. Two days later, the entire highway was closed as modular or bailey bridges were erected to carry traffic over the washed out section.

The first attempt to span the washout with the bridges failed when engineers saw that the spots supporting the temporary bridges were giving way.

So officials closed the entire highway and told motorists to find their own ways between the west and east sides of San José.

The result was a silent environmental disaster as tons of vehicle exhaust poured from monumental traffic jams and millions of dollars in salaries and transport equipment use were consumed by the detours.

Alternate routes, mainly though La Sabana and La Uruca have been nightmares for motorists. What would be 15 minutes on the Circunvalación became 40 minutes or more on the alternate routes. Motorists can be seen backed up a kilometer or more on alternate routes during peak traffic hours. A promised contingent of 150 traffic officers are mostly out of sight as some motorists shred traffic laws to reach their destinations.

The opening of the temporary bridges is just the first step in repair. Contractors are expected to spend weeks underneath the bailey bridges preparing a permanent solution, which is expected to take 27 weeks. Towards the end of February, contractors are expected to remove the bailey bridges in the westbound lanes, the direction from Los Hatillos to the Pavas exit. Two-way traffic will be carried by two remaining temporary bridges until a few weeks later, sometime in March, a finished bridge will be put in service on the westbound lanes.

That bridge will then carry all traffic until a second permanent span is put up for the eastbound lanes.

A consortium that includes CODOCSA S.A has been awarded the contract for the permanent bridges. The contract amount is 3.2 billion colons or about $6.3 million. The new bridges will be three lanes and 75 meters (246 feet) in length, said the Consejo.

Workers benefited from mostly dry weather over the weekend as the country begins to experience a transition from the rainy season.

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