Alajuela is expected to have new operating train lines by the year’s end. With more than $2 million worth of rails coming from China, the Instituto Costarricense de Ferrocarriles is laying down a six-mile track from Heredia’s station to INVU Las Cañas, located just north of Juan Santamaría airport.
The rail institute has gone through a maze of legal issues to continue with this project, mainly with the right-of-way protections that landowners have in Costa Rica. The agency has made area homeowners and business operators aware that the strip of land does not only belong to the government but that regulations are in place to set the tracks far enough away from homes and buildings in case of any accidents.
The institute’s new president, Guillermo Santana, requested that those in the area do not delay the process anymore with legal disputes and said the future train users have land rights.
The metropolitan train service is focused on giving Costa Rica necessary transportation advancements with higher speeds, two-way routes, electric power, and quality boarding stations, said Santana. He pointed out that his agency has taken all precautionary steps to maximize train speeds and not cross routes.
“There must be consideration of geographical conditions that allow for less curves and flatter terrains so speeds can increase,” Santana said. “This also applies to the two-way system because you don’t want one train having to worry about waiting so that another can pass.”
He added that using the most modern technology and running trains that don’t require fossil fuels promise to be cheaper and more eco-friendly options for the country.
Rails bought from the Chinese should be in Costa Rica in three months, though Santana said they don’t make up the entirety of the new track. Crews are currently working in San Francisco de Heredia and San Joaquín de Flores. Six days a week they are putting in concrete rail ties and metal rails, according to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes.
Transport ministry workers are projected to be 90 percent completed with the cleaning and prepping stage as they had to unearth old and
buried rail lines that had been covered with asphalt for the roads there. Crews have also started building a 15-meter bridge over a ravine in San Joaquín de Flores that will replace an old one near the community’s medical clinic.
Santana stressed that this new line should interweave with other public transport systems to allow people fluid and easy travel experiences. He said he hopes the train project can ultimately expand west to Orotina, where the government has announced plans to make a new international airport, to provide long-term infrastructure for Costa Rica transportation.
“We should think of the future, we can’t contain ourselves to short-term projects that may only solve immediate needs to transport people,” Santana said. “There need to be 15- or 25-year plans that allow us to anticipate variables like population growth, new communities, industries, or airports.”
The right-of-way problems are similar to what the rail institute faced when putting the original valley line back in service. Once the passenger service stopped in the 1990s, neighbors simply took over the rail institute’s land. A classic case was in Tibás where the rail line was buried under mountains of local trash.