Of the 2,000 plastic posts placed on the median of the Ruta 32 (San Jose – Limon) in 2015, only 81 remain standing today, though severely damaged. The useful life of the divider posts doesn’t seem to exceed a year.
The sad truth is that the investment by the Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transportes (MOPT) – Transport Ministry – has been a failure.
The posts, intended to save lives on a road that is prone to accidents just don’t hold up to the inclement weather conditions, in particular through the Braulio Carillo national park, cars hitting them regularly and vandalism.
The MOPT recognizes that the posts must be replaced often, as it happens with the traffic signs. Alejandra Acosta, head of Regional Traffic Engineering, told Crhoy.com that the posts are not exempt to the road conditions in the country.
“If you review the engineering budgets, every year we buy paint and reflectors (…) we are aware that these posts are not to last 4, 5, 6 years … it is a year-to-year issue. The annual damage has been around 500 posts and that is the budget we have,” she explained.
Although not durable, after several studies, the MOPT determined that it was ideal to use plastic posts that would not represent a danger to drivers. Also, the plastic stands up better taking into account the number of landslides on the road.
The engineer explained that a fixed barrier, such as a concrete or metal, could result in people trapped in the event of a landslide and would reduce lane width on this narrow road. According to the expert, it is not an issue of resistance, given that you cannot place devices on the road that can damage vehicles when hit.
Despite the strong criticism at the beginning, the plastic posts have had the desired effect, the reduction of speed on the road and the incidence of head-on collisions and a reduction in deaths.
“We are very happy because people ask us to replace the poles because with them they feel more secure,” said Acosta.
Legal Dispute. Currently, the MOPT in a legal dispute against JL Señalización y Arquitectura S.A., the company contracted to install the posts three years ago. The MOPT says the posts were to have withstood up to 200 blows at 80 km/h (though the speed on the road is 60 km/h), a study by the Instituto Tecnológico de Costa Rica (TEC) determined that the posts installed could withstand only 50, so the MOPT did not pay up that the ¢90 million colones cost.
“Those posts were not paid (for) and we are in a legal dispute because they did not comply with the certification that was requested,” said Acosta, adding that the posts were showing deformation within days of their installation and the reason for the TEC study.
The plastic posts were part of a ¢223 million colones investment in 2015 that included the demarcation, installation of vertical signs, removal of old signs and the plastic posts.
Last December, the MOPT put out a tender to replace the posts, to which several companies have offered competing bids. Among the requirements, the winning company has to provide a certification of resistance and that the devices be of a material that cannot get embedded in a vehicle.
Currently, the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad (Conavi) is in the process of changing the asphalt layer to accept the new posts and thermoplastic road marking paint, which lasts longer than regular paints used.
Acosta expects the road work on the Ruta 32 to be finished within the next four months.