The Escazú toll stations on the Ruta 27 (San José - Caldera) .
The Escazú toll stations on the Ruta 27 (San José – Caldera) . Foto archives.

It’s almost four years that the Ruta 27 – better known as the San José – Caldera – is in operation but the concession has yet to be formally recognized by the government.

On February 27, 2014, will the fourth anniversary of the road between the capital city and the Pacific port of Caldera, the first concession road in the country, and still operating on a “temporary” basis, with no definitive delivery date.

The concession project has not moved forward to the “completion” stage due to outstanding works by the concessionaire, among them is the construction of the overpass at the El Coyol intersection that leads to the Bernardo Soto (the section of the Interamerican highway to and from the airport).

Last September, the Contraloría General de la República (CGR) – the Comptroller’s office – issued a report drawing the attention to the official handover of the Ruta 27 to the State and several outstanding issues, related to the construction phase.

Perdro Castro, the minister of Public Works and Transport (MOPT in Spanish), said that in the past year his office has made an inventory of all the outstanding works, broken down into “maintenance” and “new” works.

According to Castro, Autopistas del Sol (the concessionaire) has applied for final commissioning, which is not possible legally without finalizing the outstanding works, according to State lawyers.

Castro said that both parties want the handover as quickly as possible, but neither side is talking dates. In fact, Autopistas is not talking all to the press on the issue.

Besides the foregoing, other issues have started to creep up, like the number of vehicles that daily use the 76 kilometres of road being much greater than the design capacity, generating slow moving traffic and bottlenecks.

Between Escazú and Santa Ana, for example, over 95.000 vehicles use the road daily and 55.000 to Cuidad Colón, according to figures by the Policia de Transito (traffic police), a division of the MOPT. The road was designed for 25.000 vehicles daily.

The MOPT argues that the congestion on the road is directly related to the unfinished work, work that is part of the concession contract.

“We are waiting on the concessionaire for a proposal for improvements to review the terms of the contract and see how they will implemented”, said Minister Castro.

The Comptroller also found deficiencies in the control of maintenance activities and improvements to the road. The CGR report also commented that there has not been an evaluation of the functional and structural condition of the pavement, and there is little or no control and regulation of vehicle weight and load allowed, impacting the state of the road.

Weigh stations have generated controversy, the government says. Unclear is the role of the traffic police in the control of weights, since the concessionaire has not enabled the mechanisms for control, that requires the installation of weigh stations along the route.

Experts like Federico Villalobos, economist specializing in infrastructure, says that good communication is essential in public-private partnerships (PPPs).

Villalobos says that, in this case, both Autopistas del Sol and the government have come up short, neither being clear about the issues, the flow of traffic, the revenues collected by the concessionaire, and how much is spent on maintenance, among others.

The expert stressed that in Costa Rica there is no clear methodology to have a transparent and credible concession partnership, so people start to doubt a model that has had success in many parts of the world.

“There has not be a fluid communication, to me, it should be so simple that any person can access a website and know all the information, the bulk of the costs and the advances, everything”, Villalobos told the El Financiero.

One of the problems pointed out by the expert is that the CNC (Comision Nacional de Concessiones) is not decentralized, does not have it own technical, legal and financial capacity and the interdisciplinary vision to manage the elements of a PPP.

It is a challenge for the country to attain a positive PPP model.

Source: El Financiero