Sunday 9 May 2021

The “Politics” Of The Circunvalación

The high command of the Ministry of Public Works (MOPT) and the highway agency CONAVI have decided to  ignore the advice of their own expert engineers and two outside bodies that merely replacing the culverts under the road is inadequate, reported La Nacion Friday.

MOPT Minister Pedro Castro, amid Independence Day celebrations in San José, on Sunday said the Bailey will be gone from the Circunvalación in the coming days.
MOPT Minister Pedro Castro, amid Independence Day celebrations in San José, on Sunday said the Bailey will be gone from the Circunvalación in the coming days.

The engineers suggest that a bridge is the way to go and that the current in the Maria Aguilar River which washed out the first culverts will do it again. Engineers from the Materials and Structure Laboratory of the University of Costa Rica also agree with their colleagues.

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The lab is a legal advisor to MOPT. Moreover, the Federate Association of Engineers and Architects add their voices to those urging a bridge to cure the danger of the current of the river washing away structural underpinnings of the highway culverts.

In case that you have just returned from a vacation on Mars, we will recap: On Aug. 24, the highway on which 50,000+ cars and trucks pass daily collapsed in a giant sinkhole. A quick inspection proved that the 10-foot diameter culverts installed 25 years ago collapsed when they were choked by an accumulation of garbage pushed down the channel by rushing rainwater runoff.

Minister of Public Works Pedro Castro and Conavi director Cristian Vargas conceived the idea of installing culverts again at a cost of 2 billion colones. But, since Aug. 30, engineers of the Conavi Roads and Bridges Unit have urged that a bridge be constructed.

Their recommendation is based on a firm footing of realism — the conversion of previous green areas into urban development means that runoff is no longer absorbed in the soil but is now directed by piping into the river. All manner of garbage including even tree trunks are dumped into the river.

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The politicians who head Conavi and MOPT tend to blame the rains for the problem. Their culvert would be made of concrete, not metal, but still would be filled in above with earth. This is the same material that caused the temporary Bailey bridges to beclosed this week as water ate away at both sides of the passage.

Castro says he does not remember the CONAVI technical report but reminded reporters that a culvert is cheaper than a bridge. He also mentioned that bridges take 10 months or so to build and culverts six months. Right now, the four temporary Bailey bridges are being withdrawn. They were questioned by engineers for not first reinforcing the sides of the sinkhole before installation.

Materials Lab engineer Luis Guillermo Loria told La Nacion, “Twenty-five years ago, they made the same error with the culverts.” Other engineers agree that in the long run a bridge saves money.

Comment: This underscores what we said earlier — that politicians here are enamored of building things on the cheap. Should the culvert last 25 years, these politicians figure that they will either be retired or dead by that time and it will be someone else’s problem.

But there is a more profound problem with Costa Ricans themselves — they toss their garbage with reckless abandon into rivers here without conscience or care that they are hurting anyone. Letting Mother Nature carry away garbage in river currents causes grave problems downstream.

Authorities do not punish causing pollution in the nation’s rivers. They should pass a law severely punishing such irresponsible actions as willfully contaminating rivers. It would not be a magic bullet for the culvert problem but would prolong the life of highways.

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Moreover, the filth dumped into rivers pollutes the oceans where the rivers finally wend their way. Granted a beautiful country, it is criminal the way Costa Ricans treat it. They will pay dearly as this century continues.

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We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

Q Costa Rica
Reports by QCR staff

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