Costa Rica’s roads in chaos?

Compiled by Martin Mowforth from a range of sources.

December 2022

As Costa Ricans and frequent visitors to the country already know, the state of Costa Rican highways is far from good. Potholes, diversions and city congestion add a lot to the time and cost of car journeys in the country.

In September [2022] a stretch of the Panamerican Highway near San Ramón was closed for at least three months for emergency repairs, and some say that this is a considerable time under-estimate. The section of the road in need of repair was recently hit by a landslide which swept a bus and several other vehicles off the road causing the deaths of nine people. The road had been re-opened only the day before after an inspection by the Ministry of Public Works (MOPT).

Additionally, journeys on Route 27 from San José southwards along the Pacific coastline towards Panama, are now taking three times longer to complete than they should. Recently, various routes from San José to the Caribbean coast have also been closed because of landslides.

In October, Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves declared a national emergency due to the poor road conditions. Clearly, these difficulties are due in part to the heavy rains and consequent landslides, but as Chaves also made clear, “… the infrastructure in this country is truly deplorable  … This is due to the carelessness and ineptitude of how the country has been administered.”

Various transport specialists have warned travellers to expect considerable delays over the coming weeks and months. The President of the CNE, Alejandro Picado Eduarte, said “We cannot allow the rainy season of 2023 to cause the same conditions as this year and inflict more damage. Above all, we must activate measures to protect life.”

It is reported that the National Emergency Commission (CNE) will issue ‘imminent danger declarations’ due to the appalling infrastructure conditions. The Legislative Assembly is expected to approve a bill for the urgent approval of credit to begin repairs in the dry season. President Chaves has sought $700 million (USD) from an environmental fund of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and will seek further funds as a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

President Chaves is reported as planning the 4-lane widening of Route 32 (the North Ring Road plan) and the Government City project to be finished by the end of his administration in 2026. In the same time period he sees partial completion of the San José – San Ramón road and the San José – Cartago road improvement, along with a new electric train route.