The crucial expansion project along 107 kilometers of Route 32 connecting San José to Limón has encountered yet another major setback, pushing the expected completion date back from April to December 2024.
The delay was disclosed by National Road Council (CONAVI) Director Mauricio Batalla during recent talks with the Special Committee of Limón. The project launched in November 2017 with an initial 42-month timeframe targeting finish by 2020. However, it has faced multiple extensions as complications persist.
Public Works Minister Rodolfo Méndez Mata expressed frustration over the project’s troubled beginnings. “A loan was approved for a project without even a design – that’s where everything started going wrong. We still have over 65 expropriations to address along with design changes and budget issues,” he noted.
To contend with the lingering challenges, Costa Rican officials have sought to extend financing terms with the Eximbank of China, which provided the original loan. But Finance Minister Nogui Acosta said failing to achieve an extension would require investing nearly $20 million more to complete the project. Currently, around $82 million remains to be executed.
The numerous expropriations have proven especially time-consuming and fall under the Executive Branch’s purview. Minister Acosta criticized the lack of early planning and investment.
To get the project back on track, the government plans to bring in a consortium to supervise operations on-site in conjunction with the Chinese construction firm Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC). This is expected to help expedite the 40 kilometers already close to completion. However, a recent bid process to select a new supervisor failed to yield qualified candidates.
The original Route 32 expansion called for upgrades along 107 km such as new bridges, interchanges, bus bays and wildlife crossings. But flyovers were scrapped in November to cut costs. More pedestrian facilities are now planned instead.
The repeated delays and ballooning budget have been deeply concerning for Costa Ricans relying on an improved Route 32. But officials remain hopeful the project can get back on track and provide much-needed upgrades to this critical trade and transport artery. Careful oversight and cooperation from all stakeholders will be key to seeing this vital infrastructure project finally completed.