To no surprise there are several reasons why Costa Rica’s roads aren’t in good condition: the type of asphalt used is not adequate for the temperatures that varies from one region to another and the vehicle load.
Experts recommend that for each type of road (urban, rural, cold and hot weather) specific asphalt be used. But, the same asphalt is used for all.
This conclusion is found in a report by the Laboratorio de Materiales y Modelos Estructurales de la Universidad de Costa Rica (Lanamme) – Laboratory of Materials and Structural Models of the University of Costa Rica.
The Lanamme results show that the current type of asphalt used cracks quickly and loses its ability to withstand water and recommends that at least three types of emulsions be used.
The Refinadora Costarricense de Petróleo (Recope), Costa Rica’s oil refinery and sole importer of asphalt, says that it does not have the logistical capacity to bring into the country more than two types of asphalt.
Roberto Coto, Director of Quality Assurance at Recope, says the change could be made if the government issues a decree to allow a variance in the quality of the product it can import.
However, Jose Luis Salas, direct of the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad (Conavi) – National Roads Authority – says the decision of the type of asphalt is that of Recope.
“We cannot demand Recope make the change (in asphalt). We have sat down with them to verify that the product they import meets the needs, but in the end they decide what to import”, said Coto.
Luis Guillermo Loría, of the Programa de Infraestructura del Transporte (Pitra), confirms that the current asphalt does not support the traffic load, reducing its lifespan by 50%.
“The problem now is that the asphalt is very rigid and is very fragile. The result is cracks or loses water resistance”, said Salas.
An argument used by both Recope and the Conavi is that to migrate to another type – a better quality – asphalt it can increase the price by 20% or more The current cost is US$120 a barrel, the new formula would be at least US$145.
Olman Vargas, director of the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos (CFIA) – Association of Engineers and Architects – say that the price increase could be justified by the longer life of the asphalt, and more economical for the government in the long term.