QCOSTARICA – For more than 24 hours a landslide completely closed off traffic between Atenas and Orotina of the Ruta 27. This Thursday, the main artery to the Pacific from the Central Valley remained under “paso regulado” as crews continued the clean up at kilometer 41.
The landslide Tuesday night was one of some 70 affecting different routes across the country in the past week, a product of the rains caused by Hurrican Eta.
But as well know, as does the Ministry of Transport (MOPT) and Globalvia, the concessionaire of the Ruta 27, is nothing new. It’s been 10 years since the road was inaugurated. And it’s been 10 years of landslidles and falling rocks leading to road closures on this important road, despite efforts to control it.
However, a solution is far from becoming a reality, as the political football continues.
On Wednesday, José Manuel Sáenz, head of the Consejo Nacional de Concesiones (CNC) – national concession council – assured that he had asked Globalvia to seek “seriously” the way to end the problem that has been dragging on from the first days of operation back in 2010.
“What I am saying is that we cannot continue with this story every year, 10 years have passed and we have to find a solution (…) it is time to study it and make a decision, even if it takes a little time we have to start doing it.
“What we left with the concessionaire is’ let’s sit down seriously, because 10 years have passed, let’s sit down seriously, one by one, to see what needs to be done, if they require the right of way, maybe we can advance as far as we can now, and later when the land is purchased, we advance the rest and in some others, because we do something palliative and perhaps there are places we cannot do more,” said Sáenz.
But that is the rhetoric by previous administrations.
In Tuesday landslide, two vehicles were trapped by the material coming off one of the steep slopes, one of them a big rig pushed into the cuneta (ditch). One lane was reopened Wednesday night shortly after 8:00 pm, some 24 hours after the landslide.
In the early morning of this Thursday, there were temporary closures to allow crews to continue cleaning up the site.
Se mantiene Cierre temporal en el sector entre Orotina y Atenas por caída de material en el km 41 sector de Escobal.
— Globalvia Ruta 27 (@autopdelsol) November 11, 2020
The landslide occurred at a point where the concessionaire has shored up the slope with material to prevent a landslide. Evidently it was no match for nature.
At the heart of the problem is that steep slopes, by all design standards are not adequate. The San Jose – Caldera project has decades on the books, the final design more than a decade old.
Proper slopes to avoid landslides meant expropriations under an old law that stalled public works projects in about every corner of the country. But, despite an updated expropriation law, the process is not any better. Examples are the drags of the works on the Ruta 1 (Puntarenas to Liberia, in Guanacaste) and the Ruta 32 (Guapiles to the city of Limon, in Limon).
The CNC chief acknowledged that the expropriations could delay the final solution, but affirmed that it is necessary to begin to design the intervention that the unstable points will require and that they will have to be analyzed one by one.
“We have to design each slope, they say that many are already designed, we told them ‘well bring them and we are going to see case by case and hopefully from the most critical to the least critical,” he said.
The official affirmed that the company must take charge of all the stabilization works, while the State will have to bear the costs of the expropriations that are required.
“In the short term, the only thing we have arranged is to identify the most critical ones, to review their condition. Now it’s going to rain a lot this weekend, there’s nothing we can do but be vigilant. In summer we will begin to do the works to take away pesos, to be able to lay them down as far as we go and if we have to buy the right of way, then we will have to buy the right of way, there is no more,” Saenz added.
As detailed by the CNC chief, the studies that would begin in the coming weeks are those that will determine the conditions and the type of work that is needed. Thus, depending on the height, in some it would be possible to the “take weight off”, carry out terracing work that consists of “laying down” the slope or improving gutter systems.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT) recognizes that all that can be done is monitor the situation, and at the slightest sign of collapse, order a preventive closure to avoid incidents such as the one that occurred Tuesday night.
Fortunately the Tuesday night incident did not result in any injuries, just material damage and freyed nerves.
In the coming years, users of the highway will have to continue to vigilant of the conditions, and avoid using the highway during heavy rain conditions, such as those in October and November every year.
This is not the first time that the current administration has asked the concessionaire in charge of the highway for a plan to definitively solve the problem of the slopes, without any definitive solution being achieved to date.