Much to the dismay of tour operators, hotels and other local business owners, repairs to a bridge on the main stretch between the airport and San José are scheduled to begin during the height of tourist season on Dec. 26.
According to the Transportation Ministry, only one lane of the highway will be closed at any given time, but the work on the bridge that spans the Río Virilla is still expected to cause long lines of traffic as there are no adequate detours.
In a statement released Friday, the National Tourism Chamber said the decision to begin road work on Dec. 26 is “one more negative impact” on a sector that has already taken a hit with the economic recession, natural disasters and the deflating value of the dollar against the colón.
Aside from Semana Santa, December is one of the busiest weeks for tourism each year, as both domestic and international travelers. According to the tourism chamber, 110,702 tourists entered the country in December of 2009, representing 10 percent of all air traffic of that year.
“I think national and foreign tourists already face sufficient problems on our deteriorating roads, a result of the ravages of nature, but now, we are punishing them more in the week that registers the greatest amount vacation traffic,” said Julio Barquero, Executive Director of the Costa Rican Car Rental Association (ACAR).
In a letter sent to the head of the Transportation Ministry on Friday, the chamber urged transportation officials to delay the start date.
The reconstruction of the bridge over Río Virilla has been in the pipeline for years and has gotten more urgent in recent months as the bridge appears to be splitting at its seams. Already, westward traffic slows to a crawl to reduce the impact of the bump.
For the post-holiday construction, which is expected to last ten weeks, traffic-clogged and long detours might prove to be the best option. Alternative routes include Río Segundo to San Francisco de Heredia, Real Cariari to Barreal to La Valencia, San Rafael de Alajuela to Santa Ana via Route 27 and Alajuela to Santa Bárbara to Barva.