QCOSTARICA – Driving the 50-kilometer concrete highway between Cañas-Liberia, inaugurated five years ago and already showing signs of deterioration, is now free of tolls.
But that could change soon as the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT) plans collect tolls to finance maintenance work on this section of the Interamericana Norte or Ruta 1.
To this end, it is more than just talk or speculation, the MOPT began the process of hiring experts to prepare the feasibility studies, in the project called asset recycling.
Likewise, the possibility of including, once completed, the Cañas-Limonal and Limonal-Barranca sections, which are under construction, will be evaluated.
Rodolfo Méndez Mata, MOPT minister, explained that the analysis phase is progressing in two ways.
At this moment, he said, they are in talks with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which will be the entity in charge of financing the feasibility studies that the MOPT.
The other alternative is handled with the World Bank, in which case, the bank itself would carry out the studies for the project through cooperation with non-reimbursable funds.
Regarding the latter, the minister said he did not yet have the details on how it would be carried out.
What is asset recycling?
It consists of giving a private company a concession on a route (or any other State asset that represents a service for the population) and that it assumes, in the first place, the set-up, that is, the necessary tasks so that it remains in optimal conditions and, secondly, pay a specified amount to the Government for the operation of that highway.
The concession company must assume during the term agreed in the contract the maintenance and operation of the road, while recovering through tolls the investment paid to the State.
The State, meanwhile, may use the resources obtained from this payment in works or services for the same communities surrounding the project.
For Méndez, the model would be very beneficial for both the State and the communities.
“I think it is a mechanism that can lead to improving the development of the country’s road infrastructure and that is what we want to determine in terms of viability and the advantages it would have for the regions that could benefit from this process,” he said.
The minister stressed that the intention is that the plan is not limited only to this section of the Inter-American North.
The plan is that the studies allow this same model to be applied in at least three or four other routes, among them, for example, Route 32, which connects San José with Limón that is currently being expanded, as well as the recent expansion of Route 4, which communicates between Chilamate-Vuelta Kooper.
After it all said and done, using fancy words and titles, the reality is that MOPT has been and continues to be deficient in its ability to properly plan a road project, including ensuring that the contractor delivers a road built to standards and then maintaining such.
Construction began on the Cañas-Liberia section began in May 2012 and was inaugurated in July 2016.