There was a time in Costa Rica in the not too far distant past when you couldn’t drive more than a kilometre or two (a mile for the non-metrics) without literally hitting a pothole or two or three…the pothole situation was so bad that mechanics laughed all the way to the bank and auto parts supply outlets enjoying bonanza times. Car dealers also enjoying the “huecos” for it meant shorter times between new cars.
At one point, t-shirts with the slogan “I survived the potholes of Costa Rica” were being gobbled up at US$25 a pop by
foreigners visitor our fair country to take back home as souvenirs. Around the water cooler – OK local bars – pothole stories were a centre of conversaction, even contests of who could run into the biggest or nastiest pothole sprung in between Imperiales’, with the potholes getting bigger with each round of beers.
There wasn’t a dinner conversation that didn’t include a pothole story or three as the pothole was also a common topic among friends and family. Newspapers reported some of the more bizarre potholes, television news sprang into action to record images of the latest pothole.
Most in Costa Rica, rather than hide in shame about the situation, being known around the world as the country without an army, democratic and even called the “Switzerland of the Americas”, as it had become the country with worst roads in the region, the pothole became something to be proud of, a national symbol, cultural icon if you will, something that could be called our won.
OK, maybe it is an exaggeration of some, but not too far off for those whole live it.
But that all changed. Not so quickly the potholes disappeared as “cuadrillas” (work crews) popped up everywhere, filling holes everywhere. A pothole here, another there, soon there weren’t anymore potholes and nothing to talk about.
That emptiness, however, was quickly replaced by the Virilla or “platina” bridge. But that is another story for another day.
For the last several years Costa Rica has been pothole free compared to the pothole ridden roads of the past.
Today, all of a sudden potholes are everywhere, like the latest in San Pedro, forcing the closure of the Circunvalación over the La Hispanidad (Fountain) bridge this weekend. Further east, a local businessman has offered to pay out of his own pocket the repair of a hole in the bridge that has completely cut off all his customers. I could fill pages and pages of stories and photos of potholes, some pretty nasty, while others not so, but enough to damage the suspension of vehicles and cause of traffic congestion and accidents.
Unfortunately the situation will only get worse and Costa Rica once again becomes the leader in the worst roads in the Americas, even worse that the poorest country in the continent, its neighbour to the north, Nicaragua.
One of the reasons for this is that it is NOT within the priorities of the current administration. In fact the Ministerio de Obras Publicas y Transportes (MOPT) – the transport ministry – has been without a minister for months, only for the Presidenta to appoint an old hand in the matter, former MOPT executive, Pedro Castro.
Lack of investment in maintenance of the infrastructure and corruption and politics within the MOPT are another reason the pothole situation will go unchecked. Hey, these are the same people that can’t co-ordinate line painting after a road has been repaved. Take for example the autopista General Cañas, it was months after repaving of the country’s most transited road to get painted lines. The latest is the Sabana norte. And then there are the bridges. La Trocha debacle. I can go on and on.
Looking at the positive side of the pothole situation and instead of considering them a nuisance, potholes reduce speeding, Let’s call them “reverse” speed bumps. And best of all, they cost nothing to create.
The pothole is also a booster to the economy, auto mechanics can once again live life, car sales increase, auto parts suppliers can expand their operations, all this meaning more government revenue from sales and other taxes.
Also, a drive from San José to Guanacaste, for instance, doesn’t have to be boring anymore, as you can get the whole family involved in the “spot the pothole”. The drive can be interesting as one dodges potholes. And if you one and hit it, well, just think of the fun it is change the tire. Oh wait, the spare is flat (or the jack is missing), great the adventure gets more interesting and longer.
Sundays friends can get together to go on a pothole hunt. Even maybe pitch in a fill a pothole or two. The pothole can even bring you fame, get you on television.
Face it, the pothole is here to stay and can bet that it will soon take its the place along side of the Gallo Pinto, the Dijay, Mae and Pura Vida!
The Mother of All Potholes!
This sinkhole occurred on the autopista General Cañas at the end of June 2012. The repairs are still a couple of months away from the writing of this article.
The media had a frenzy
For more pothole photos visit our Facebook page: Huecologico Costa Rica