Tuesday 20 April 2021

Circunvalación Norte Runs Into Roadblock, Works SuspendedIndefinitely

Costa Ricans have been waiting for more than 40 years for the north section of the Circunvalación Norte to be built, which would complete the ring road around San Jose. Now they have to wait even longer

QCOSTARICA – A new roadblock faces the construction of the Circunvalación Norte of the Ruta 39, the San José north ring road, as from this Tuesday, April 6, the works for US$163 million dollar project are suspended indefinitely.

Costa Ricans have been waiting for more than 40 years for the north section of the Circunvalación Norte to be built, which would complete the ring road around San Jose. Now they have to wait even longer

The cause?

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The construction supervision contract with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) expired on March 27, confirmed the executive director of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad (Conavi) – National Highway Council, Mario Rodríguez

Without a company responsible for supervising the construction, it the project cannot continue, despite the fact that the project is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.

The 4.1 kilometers of Circunvalación Norte will link La Uruca with Ruta 32, at the height of the old precarious Solidarity Triangle, which will reduce traffic congestion for more than 100,000 vehicles per day.

The supervision agreement with UNOPS was signed for US$6.1 million and the State intends to extend it for nine months and for an additional US$1.3 million.

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Rodríguez explained that they asked the Contraloría General de la República (CGR) – Comptroller’s Office – for authorization to extend the contract, but they have not yet received a positive response.

According to Rodríguez, the extra money is for the project and until the Comptroller’s office authorizes the funds the supervision contract is paralyzed, and, thus, the works are paralyzed.

When would the work resume?

“We depend on the Comptroller’s Office that can take its time to make the decision to extend the contract.

“The Comptroller’s Office has a deadline that could vary and expires next Friday, but they could request broadening of criteria or comments. Then, we would have to respond, we will do what the Comptroller’s Office asks us to do,” said Rodríguez.

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The process to obtain the endorsement of the Comptroller’s Office is not last minute, the process of the addendum to the contract with UNOPS began on December 17, 2020.

The delay does not only mean that Costa Ricans have to wait even more after waiting for more than 40 years for this section of the Circunvalación to be built, but also exposes the State to eventual claims for damages from the Estrella-H.Solis consortium, hired to build the road extension.

The graphic produced by La Nacion details the phases of construction of the Circunvalación Norte of the Ruta 39.

‘There will be layoffs’

The delay also means many of the 500 people working on the construction project face layoffs in these tight economic times caused by the pandemic.

Carlos Carmiol, spokesperson for the Estrella-H.Solís consortium indicated that they were notified of the suspension of work Monday (April 5) afternoon.

“At the moment we are evaluating the scenarios presented by this notification, but due to the magnitude of it (sic), there will be layoffs,” said Carmiol.

“We are still analyzing the economic costs and effects that will be generated by virtue of the notification of the stoppage of this project in its entirety. We believe that the highest cost will be that the work is delayed and is not in operation soon at the disposal of the users. Likewise, we believe that this suspension is very regrettable, since it implies a significant delay in the completion of the works, thus impacting the economic reactivation of the country,” he added.

Comptroller’s beef with the UNOPS

Alejandro Rossi, UNOPS representative in Costa Rica, stated that they tried to avoid the work stoppage, but they were unsuccessful.

“What we are doing, simply, is waiting for the last pronouncement of the Comptroller’s Office (…) The truth is that we reached the expiration date of the agreement without any firm extension, that is why we had no other choice. option than to suspend the contract and wait for the resolution,” concluded Rossi.

It is not the first time that UNOPS has become an obstacle for the projects developed by MOPT and Conavi.

Since last year, the Government has paralyzed the expansion of the 2.2 kilometers of the radial in Lindora, in Santa Ana, due to objections and doubts from the Comptroller’s Office regarding UNOPS.

Also, since 2014, UNOPS has faced questions for lack of transparency in the infrastructure under its charge, for overpricing derived from arrears and for the refusal to cancel social charges to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) for its workers in the country.

Now, Comptroller’s beef with United Nations agency is transferred to the Circunvalación Norte, one of the main initiatives of the Executive Branch in matters of public works.

Since its arrival in the country in 2014, the State commissioned UNOPS to construct three overpasses in the Circunvalación, the expansion of the bridge over the Virilla River, in Lindora, the extension of the binational bridge, in Sixaola, Limón, and the construction of the sanitary aqueduct system in Puerto Viejo, Limón, among others.

All these works were suffered delays.


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