Slow going on New San Carlos Highway

June 19, 2009

The

San Carlos Highway

has hung over President Oscar Arias’ head since he broke relations with a major donor two years ago.

Hoping to complete the 29.7-kilometer road before he leaves office next year, Arias has again called on the legislature to approve the remaining funding.

Begun with a $15 million donation and $35 million loan from the Taiwanese government, the highway was intended to serve as a connector between the northwest Central Valley coffee town of San Ramón and the northern lowlands town of Ciudad Quesada.

But when Costa Rica established diplomatic relations with China, the Taiwanese donation was withdrawn and the road remained unfinished.

The current request to the legislature is approval of an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan for an “umbrella plan” in which the country could make infrastructure improvements to roads across the country.

“This is not money just for San Carlos,” said Karla González, minister of Public Works and Transport (MOPT.) “But it will allow us to pay for other improvements that have been underfunded in the past.”

The money will go towards new bridges and bike paths, as well as roads, and will help complete a train line between Alajuela, Heredia, San José and Cartago.

Yet, the San Carlos project presents an important facet of the $850 million umbrella plan.

“As an administration, we have been clear that the

San Carlos Highway

is a necessity,” said Mayi Antillón, Arias’ minister of communication.

The highway has progressed with a loan from the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (BCIE), but González said the funds are not sufficient because the highway is being expanded to four lanes and requires connectors to nearby roads.

The loan approval was stalled in the legislative assembly this week, after Mario Quirós, a legislator with the Libertarian Party, insisted on considering other motions before taking a vote.

–Chrissie Long

 

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