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San José-Caldera Highway Hits the Open Road

January 18, 2008
What for 30 years has been a punch line to jokes about government inefficiency finally got moving Thursday, as President Oscar Arias and other government officials inaugurated the construction of the San José- Caldera highway.
When completed, the 77-kilometer stretch of road will cut the trip from the capital to the Pacific coast to less than an hour’s drive.
Minister of Public Works and Transport Karla González said concessionaire Autopistas del Sol – a consortium made up of a Spanish, a Portuguese and a Costa Rican company – has 30 months to complete the highway.
The cost of the project is estimated at $230 million, three quarters of which will be financed by the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and the Caja Madrid, with the consortium putting up the remainder of the money out of its own pocket.
Autopistas del Sol will pay back the loan by operating and maintaining the highway through a 25-year concession that allows it to collect a toll of $2.70 from vehicles traveling the length of the highway (partial trips will be prorated).
Since its conception in 1978, the San José-Caldera highway has been plagued by setbacks and delays. Over the years numerous attempts have been made to get the project moving, with little to show for it.
At the turn of the century, it appeared the highway would finally become a reality as the government completed construction on five bridges for the highway, but for seven years the bridges have been to nowhere, unused except by locals traversing the dirt track where the highway is planned.
This decade alone has seen three consortiums try to take on the enormous project through a government-granted concession.
The first collapsed due to internal conflicts, and the second pulled out in 2004, saying the government wasn’t expropriating land fast enough.
Autopistas del Sol took over the concession in 2005, but that arrangement almost derailed in 2006 when the government decided the highway design – and price – needed an update, triggering more time-consuming reviews from the Comptroller General’s Office.
 

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